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Return to Philosophy 



By the same author 


★ 

Guide to Modern Thought 
Under the Fifth Rib 
Matter, Life and Value 
Introduction to Modern Philosophy 
Philosophical Aspects of Modern Science 
Thrasymachus, or The Future of Morals 
Samuel Butler 
etc. 



Return to Philosophy 

being 


A Defence of Reason 
An Affirmation of Values 
and A Plea for Philosophy 


by 

C.E.M. Joad 


London 

Faber and Faber Limited 
24 Russell Square 



First published in January Mcmxxxv 
By Faber and Faber Limited 
24 Russell Square London W.C.T 
Reprinted October Mcmxlii 
Printed in Great Britain 
By Bradford and Dickens, London, W.C.i 
All rights reserved 



Foreword 


★ 

Many people to-day adopt an instinctively derogatory 
attitude to reason. It is not, they say, a free activity of 
the mind, reaching conclusions under no compulsion 
save that of the evidence; it is the tool of instinct and 
the handmaid of desire. They are sceptical also in their 
attitude towards values. Beauty, they hold, is not an 
intrinsic quality of things; it is merely the compliment 
which we bestow upon the objects which have been 
fortunate enough to give us pleasure. One man’s 
pleasure is as good as another’s, and all the art criticism 
in the world is only an elaborate series of variations 
upon the theme; ‘This is what I happen to like.’ As 
with art, so with morals. To act rightly is merely to act 
in a way of which other people approve. 

It is the object of the following pages to criticize this 
subjectivist attitude and to expose its inadequacy in 
art, in morals, and in thought. The book is, therefore, 
in effect a restatement in modern terms of certain 
traditional beliefs; that reason, if properly employed, 
can give us truth; that beauty is a real value which 


7 



Foreword 


exists, and that we can train our minds and form our 
tastes to discern it; that some things are really right in a 
sense in which others are really wrong, and that the 
endeavour to know truth and to discern value is the 
noblest pursuit of the adult civilized intelligence. The 
best name for this pursuit is philosophy. This con- 
clusion is reached by a number of different routes, 
each of which starting from some distinctive character- 
istic of modern life or thought, an aeroplane shed, a 
quasi-religious cult, or an essay of Aldous Huxley con- 
verges upon the same position. The defence of reason, 
the affirmation of values and the plea for philosophy 
thus constitute the underlying theme which links to- 
gether the various essays which follow. 

C.E.M. JOAD 


8 



Contents 


★ 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I'orcworcl 7 

I ‘Bunkutnismus’ or Reason’s Underworld ii 

II Defence of Value — I. Value in the Modern 58 

World 

III Defence of Value— II. Beauty 94 


IV Defence of Value — III. Aldous Huxley and 1 13 
the Dowagers 

V Defence of Reason — I. Reason and Truth 139 
VI Defence of Reason — II. Reason and Con- 175 
duct 

VII Defence of Philosophy — I. Philosophy and 201 

Life 

VIII Life into Value 216 

IX Defence of Philosophy — II. Philosophy and 246 

^ Value 

Epilogue 271 

Index 277 

My thanks arc due to the Editor of Philosophy for per- 
mission to reprint Chapter VII, which originally 
appeared in the Journal of Philosophical Studies. 


9 




Chapter I 

‘^Bunkumisinus’' or Reason’s Underworld 


★ 

‘Measles, rheumatics, hooping-cough, fevers, agers, and lum- 
bagers’, said Mr. Squeers, ‘is all philosophy together; that’s what 
it is. The heavenly bodies is philosophy, and the earthly bodies is 
philosophy. If there’s a screw loosf in a heavenly body, that’; 
philosophy; and if there’s a screw loose in a earthly body, that’s 
philosophy too; or it may.be that sometimes there’s a little meta- 
physics in it, but that’s not often. Philosophy’s the chap for me. 
If a parent asks a question in the classical, commercial, or mathe- 
matical line, says I, gravely, “Why, sir, in the first place, are you a 
philosopher?’’ “No, Mr. Squeers,’’ he says, “I an’t.’’ “Then, sir,” 
says I, “I am sorry for you, for I shan’t be able to explain it.” 
Naturally the parent goes away and wishes he was a philosopher, 
and, equally naturally, thinks I’m one.’ — Mr, Squeers in Nicholas 
Mckleby. 


I 

Meals witkthe Great. I have frequently been surprised 
by the appeal of philosophy to successful men of the 
world. Those who have achieved wealth, eminence and 
power by virtue of being hard-headed practical men 
with no nonsense about them, seem late in life to de- 

' With acknowledgements to W. J. Turner for coining the only 
possible word. 

1 1 



‘ Bunkumismus’ or Reason’s Underworld 

velop a kind of soft spot in the brain through which, 
mysteriously, philosophy creeps. Sooner or later, if I 
may mix my physiology, the hardest head develops its 
Achilles heel, and this Achilles heel is a conviction that 
its owner is an original metaphysician. As a professional 
philosopher who has written a number of philosophical 
books, it has been my lot to come into contact with a 
number of such men during their late metaphysical 
periods. The contact has usually begun with the arrival 
of a discreet note from some well-known man of afFzurs, 
asking me to lunch or dinner. Highly gratified and 
pleasantly expectant of some proposal redounding to 
my credit or profit, I have accepted. 

*I am surprised at the modesty, at the diffidence al- 
most, with which the great man receives me, especially 
when it becomes clear that a jite-d-tite between myself 
and my host is intended. During the meal, usually an 
admirable one, we tedk on indifferent topics; he volubly 
and assertively, I gradually subsiding into the muddled 
acquiescence which good wine causes me to extend to 
all opinions, however outrageous. Yet behind the volu- 
bility and the assertiveness, the diffidence, it is obvious, 
is still there. By the time the table has been cleared, 
coffee served, cigars lighted, decanters placed on the 
board and the servants withdrawn, it has become un- 
mistakable nervousness. A sort of imminence gradually 
creeps into the atmosphere; a disclosure, it is clear, is 
impending. 

After-Dinner Philospphy. The Universe Unriddled. And 


12 



After-Dinner Philosophy 

presently out it comes. My host, it seems, has for years 
past been giving his attention to philosophical subjects. 
He has, he knows, no training in philosophy, but he has 
been interested in it all his life. As a token of this lifelong 
interest he has drawn up a scheme, a plan, a system, 
theory or formula, the fruit of prolonged meditation, 
which he believes to be not entirely without importance. 
Growing enthusiastic as he proceeds, he divulges that 
the scheme, plan, system or what not, is nothing less 
than a complete philosophy of the universe, in the course 
of which all problems which have at various times puzz- 
led philosophers are finally set at rest. 

This scheme he has resolved to lay before me, and 
with an exquisite mixture of diffidence and condescen- 
sion he finally produces from a drawer a typewritten 
manuscript, carefully sealed and swathed in tape. The 
seal is elaborate, the tape brightly coloured, the typing 
exquisite. And that is all ! As for the contents, the scheme, 
system, theory, philosophy, it has turned out with 
practically no exceptions to be complete balderdash, 
the degree of its sense being inversely proportional to 
the magnitude of its pretensions. 

In this way I have been honoured in strict confidence 
with a private and advance view of the philosopjhies of a 
newspaper proprietor, a theatrical producer and the 
head of a big. business syndicate, all men with well- 
known names at the very top of their professions, not 
to mention the meditations of smaller fry. And in every 
case the actual content of their solenmly divulged pro- 
ductions has been worthless. What they have had to say 

*3 



‘ Bunkumismus’ or Reason* s Underworld 

about life and the universe has been just nothing at all. 

I cannot trust myself to reproduce actual conversa- 
tions, but the following letter (whose authorship I must 
not for obvious reasons disclose), which, typical of a 
number that I have received following these intimate 
occasions, reproduces the atmosphere of faint reproach 
for my apparent unresponsiveness, my failure to be im- 
pressed, which they have usually sought to convey, will 
serve to illustrate the attitude and assurance of my emin- 
ent hosts. 

‘Dear Mr. Joad, 

‘I am sending you herewith a memorandum contain- 
ing an outline of the scheme I had the honour of laying 
before you last night. It contains Philosophy”, and 
after our talk I feel certain not only that you will be 
deeply moved by what you read, but that it will interest 
and enlighten you on many points which may previously 
have been obscure to you. 

‘I ought, perhaps, to say a word as to the origin of my 
thought. This is strictly supernatural. I believe that I 
have “recollected” (by the Socratic method of Recol- 
lection) a new meaning to the universe, and one which 
is not only compatible with scientific fact; but which 
throws new light on physics. I believe it to be the vision 
of the whole universe held by Socrates and, in a stilted 
and lesser way, by Spinoza. I began my philosophic 
studies with the Platonic Dialogues, and on the first 
reading “recollected”, as it were, the real beliefs of 
Socrates. (I may have only recollected a justification 

14 



After-Dinner Philosophy 

for those views.) The Timaeus, I believe, because of 
Plato’s reluctance to discuss the physical aspect of the 
universe, has not been given, during this century, the 
prominence that is due to it. I am convinced that this 
Dialogue contains information on the cosmical constant 
and its relation to the atom. At least I had knowledge 
from the Timaeus of such things before reading any- 
thing at all on modern physics. 

T have read extensively since my “recollection”, and 
with, I hope, an unbiased mind, but I have found no- 
thing in the accepted interpretations of Plato, nor in any 
philosophic system from Thales to Hegel, nor in the 
main theories of Jeans, Eddington, Einstein and Planck 
(in so far as they are compatible with scientific fact) to 
cast any doubt on my “recollected” scheme of the 
universe. 

‘My philosophy deals more particularly with the 
Spiritual side of life. I did not mention to you last night 
that I have had two visions both of which occurred in 
daylight. This is, however, the case and the system I 
have “recollected” is largely based upon them. This 
system has taken me years of hard study to prepare, but 
I am glad to say that I have succeeded with it so well 
that it now oantains the key to the cosmos. 

‘I do not believe that such a comprehensivc^schemc 
which solves so many difficulties has been put forward 
before, and although what I send you is only an outline, 
you will, I am sure, realize that it contains the solution 
of all the traditional problems of philosophy, evil, mat- 
ter, the many in one, the nature of being, and causation. 


15 



‘Bunkumismus’ or Reason’s Underworld 


All these fall into their place in my general scheme like 
the parts of a machine. 

‘You will, no doubt, wish to communicate with me 
again immediately you have read the enclosed, and you 
will find me ready and delighted to listen to your com- 
ments and to answer any questions that may yet rem2iin. 

‘Yours expectantly.’ 

A Philosophic Connoisseur. A short time ago an eminent 
book collector asked me to dinner. The name of this 
man is knowb throughout the literary world. It is a 
name which stands for high business capacity, a keen 
understanding of men and affairs and an unequalled 
knowledge of the value of first editions. Its owner is also 
known for his fine culture, his courtesy, his old-fashioned 
and liberal hospitality. As the novelists would say, he 
knows and is known by everybody worth knowing. He 
is the friend of many of the leading literary men of our 
time, and his friendship is deservedly valued. 

I accepted the invitation. There were no other guests; 
the meal was admirable; so, for the first half of it was my 
host, whose conversation, which was full of anecdotes of 
famous people, interspersed with shrewd and amusing 
comments on the contemporary scene, gave me very 
great pleasure. He could explain exactly why Shaw’s 
broadcast address in America was not a success, esti- 
mate to a pound the value of Hardy’s various MSS., and 
appraise with a wealth of illustrative detail Arnold 
Bennett’s vaunted competence as a business man. On 
these and kindred subjects, which were inevitably of 

i6 



A Philosophic Connoisseur 

great interest to an author, his comments were intrig- 
uing, his judgment shrewd, his knowledge prodigious. 

About halfway through dinner, however^ certain of 
the well-known symptoms began to appear. Slyly the 
mind of my host began to nod at me; intellectually he 
winked; spiritually he dug me in the ribs. There was a 
secretiveness, a hesitation which ill concealed the sense 
of a coming revelation. The s^ificance which crept in- 
to the conversation was almost conspiratorial. . . . My 
worst expectations were quickly realized. Mr. X had, it 
seemed, been devoting his attention for some time past 
to what he called the cosmos. He had given to the sub- 
ject the most prolonged meditation, often apparently to 
the exclusion of his business preoccupations. The pre- 
liminary fruits of these meditations he had ventured to 
commit to paper, and he was anxious to have my opin- 
ion upon them. It was his intention, at a later date, to 
set out his conclusions in somewhat greater detail, and 
then to summon the leading intellects of our time to a 
dinner — Shaw, Wells, Chesterton, Inge, Alexander, Ber- 
trand Russell, Jeans, and Eddington, were, I remember, 
mentioned — at which he proposed to read to them the 
contents of what he called his last will and testament to 
mankind, which was, so far as I can remember, entitled 
^The Nature of Substantive Being\ Meanwhile, he would 
be glad jf I would look through the preliminary 
draft, which in fifteen typed pages contained the gist of 
his philosophy of the Cosmos, ‘the kernel’, as he called 
it, of truth. He must, he had the grace to add, excuse 
himself for springing the thing upon me like this, but 

17 


B 



‘ Bunkumismus* or Reason’s Underworld 

when I had read, I would, he assured me, understand 
his motive for acting as he had done, and he went on to 
imply — although the actual implication was left im- 
drawn — that the importance of the subject matter 
would be found to justify any method of bringing it to 
my notice. And with an expression of absolute confi- 
dence in the importance of its contents and a hope that 
I should not be disturbed or thrown off my mental 
balance by the original, the shatteringly original import 
of its revelation, he thrust into my hand the inevitable 
roll of neatly ribboned manuscript, charging me to look 
at it there and then. With the eyes of my host upon me I 
opened, read, and was dismayed. The stuff was just 
pretentious balderdash! 

Predicament of a Guest. Conceive the difficulty of my 
position. My host was, I repeat, a man of exquisite man- 
ners and refined courtesy. He had just given me an 
admirable dinner, thoughtfully chosen, perfectly cooked. 
I was at that moment drinking his excellent port, and 
now in a moment of confidence he was revealing to me 
the secrets of his private thought; he was making me 
free of his carefully garnered wisdom. I held in my 
hands ‘his last will and testament to mankind’. And 
frankly I thought it nonsense. Three-quarters of it I could 
not understand at all; it seemed to me to be meaning- 
less. The remaining quarter wtis a farrago of stale plati- 
tude and ethico-religious uplift. I am not usually un- 
ready in words, but on this occasion I simply did not 
know what to say. I could not even meet my host’s eyes. 

i8 



‘The Rational Non-Mystical Cosmos^ 

He presses me to discuss arrangements for the dinner 
to Shaw, Inge, Alexander and the rest. Who should be 
invited? When should it be held? I shuffle and evade, for 
I know that there will be no dinner, and that, ^en if by 
some miracle these eminent men were gathered to- 
gether at the same table, they would not listen to this 
kind of nonsense for a moment. Urged to say what I 
think of the preliminary draft, I am driven to subter- 
fuge. And so I lie that I am going away into the country 
for a short time; if the manuscript is sent to me there, I 
will read it with more care and attention than it is pos- 
sible to bestow upon such a document in London and 
after such a dinner. Will he, then, send it to me? Mean- 
while I have had a delightful evening. ... I make my 
excuses and depart. 

In due course I return the MS. with a conventional 
note of polite praise. The habitual acuteness of Mr. X’s 
knowledge of men and affairs must at this stage have 
supervened upon the naivete with which he judged his 
own productions, for I was not again asked to comment 
upon ‘’The Mature oj Substantive Being', nor have I 
heard that the dinner to Inge, Sha\V, Eddington and the 
rest has ttiken place. 

• 

'The Rational Mon-Mystical Cosmos.' But although it 
may not be possible to induce thinkers to accept dinners, 
nothing can prevent them from receiving books. Even a 
person with as modest a reputation as my own receives 
yearly on an average some thirty free books about the 
Cosmos, the gifts of their authors. 


19 



‘ Bunkumismus’ or Reason’s Underworld 

One such book which arrived this morning is before 
me as I write. It is called The Rational Non-Mystical 
Cosmos, by, as far as I can judge, an American business 
man. The book has been printed and published at the 
author’s expense — my copy is called ‘Third Private 
Edition’ — and is introduced by the usual letter from an 
academic person commending the author for the bril- 
liant originality of his work and drawing attention to 
its great importance. In this case the academic person is 
one Simeon J. Koshkin, who is an assistant professor in 
a School of Mechanical Engineering — ^not, one would 
have thought, the most suitable academic qualification 
for the giving of testimonials to universe-riddle-solvers. 
For it is as this and nothing less that Mr. Koshkin hails 
our author. His letter, which is headed ‘A Dare to 
Science!’, after greeting him as ‘Dear Mr. Gillette, 
Friend and Brother’, proceeds to assure him that it is 
only men’s ‘serene complacence’, their refusal to ‘Think 
for Themselves’ which makes them unwilling to admit 
that his book contmns a solution of the ‘Riddle of the 
Ages’. In spite, however, of this ‘complacence’, the book 
will ‘provoke discussion and bewilderment’, and if, be- 
cause the author has ‘Dared to be Original’, he is over- 
looked in the present, he is comforted by the assurance 
that he can ‘afford to calmly await the Verdict of 
Posterity’. . . . ‘Mr. George Francis Gillette, you are in 
my sincere opinion an Original Thinker of the First 
Magnitude — and I dare anyone to dispute this!’ So 
Mr. Koshkin in conclusion. . . . 

And the book itself? Does it in fact provoke discussion 


20 



‘The Rational Kon-Myslical Cosmos^ 

and be^lderment? Discussion, no! Bewilderment, yes! 
The Introduction invites us to an exploration in Mr; 
Gillette’s company of the Cosmos. ‘You are in it. You 
cannot ever get out of it. ... Be a Cosmian. Not a mere 
Earthworm. The Gillette Unitary Theory is tendered as 
a Master Road Map of your entire property owned and 
run exclusively by Man. Or so he thinks. 

‘Look at It! See It All. . . .’ 

I have looked, I have seen and I can make nothing of 
it at all. There is a number of odd pictures; there are 
diagrams, scales, statistics, exhortations, continuing 
through 360 closely printed pages. But, as Mr. Gillette 
would and does say: ‘Don’t trust me. Reader! Look 
and see for yourself’; and, that you may the better 
do this, I had intended to reproduce here the first page of 
the text of his book. In fact the typescript of this chapter 
confidently announced that I had reproduced it. But, 
alas, while my MS. was with the publisher. The Rational 
Non- Mystical Cosmos has disappeared. I cannot under- 
stand this disappearance. The Rational Non-Mystical 
Cosmos is not the sort of book that anybody would wish 
to read, still less to steal. I tried myself to get rid of it by 
offering it to various purchasers both of review and 
second-hand books. All refused it. For weeks it remained 
prominently in company with other new books on a side 
table in my library. Then I took it and hid it away on an 
obscure shelf. From this shelf it has disappeared. Who, 
then, canhave wanted thebook sufficiently to have sought 
it out and removed it from its lurking place? And for 
what purpose? Somebody, it is obvious, has found some 


31 



‘ Bunkumismus^ or Reason’s Underworld 

use for it. An enemy perhaps has taken it, or more prob- 
ably, considering what it was, a friend. Or perhaps the 
mice. . . . But Mr. Gillette and his book are only an 
illustrative digression, from which I return to my 
philosopher hosts. 


ii 

The Contrast. Looking back upon the incidents I have 
recorded, I am struck less by memories of my own em- 
barrassment and the difficulties of extricating myself 
from my predicament without outraging the obligations 
either of politeness or of truth, than by the problem 
presented by the psychology of my hosts. 

Here are men of proved business ability. Not only in 
enterprise and initiative, but in sagacity and judgment, 
they stand head and shoulders above the average of their 
fellows. In planning a dead, in driving a bargain, in 
sizing up a rival, in selecting an employee, in all these 
matters their success depends on the constant and effi- 
cient use of their critical faculties. Let them make a 
mistake in these matters, let them judge a man wrongly, 
erroneously estimate the probable results of a venture, 
employ bad servants, and their loss may run into hun- 
dreds of thousands. These, then, are men- of critical 
judgment and acumen. Such men are difficult to impose 
upon. They are not the sort who are ‘taken in’. They 
are not, for example, likely to mistake pretentious 
advertisement for solid worth. Nor in their own sphere 
do they. But directly they exchange the future of a 
theatrical venture for that of the Cosmos and begin to 


22 



Why Philosophy? 

speculate not upon stocks and shares but upon Being, 
their simplicity is as that of the most besotted revivalist, 
of the callowest undergraduate. Their clear-headedness 
is muddled; their acumen blunted; they are incapable 
of recognizing balderdash when it is their own, while 
their practical judgment docs not prevent them from 
being taken in by whatever farrago of pretentious ob- 
scurities and cosmic flapdoodle may happen to have 
caught their ears. 

Why Philosophy? It is further noticeable that it is not 
science that attracts these men; they do not study the 
classics; they have no penchant for mathematics or his- 
tory; they do not even for the most part dabble in eco- 
nomics; it is to philosophy that they turn. The universe 
and nothing short of it contents them. The reason, I 
think, is not far to seek, and it is bound up with that 
modern belittlement of the intellect which is in part the 
theme of this book. 

To acquit yourself creditably in science or mathe- 
matics, you need a keen and alert intelligence. You also 
need training and practice; you require, in fact, educa- 
tion in the subject. In philosophy the requirements are 
not different. But there is a difference and an important 
one. Lacking the qualifications you simply cannot do 
mathematics and science, and the fact that you cannot 
is immediately apparent. 

In philosophy it is not so. The line that separates the 
profoundest metaphysical speculation from nonsense 
pure and simple is never easy to draw, and the latter 


23 



‘ Bunkt^mismus’ or Reason’s Underworld 

may and often does masquerade as the former. It is this 
circumstance which constitutes one of the attractions of 
philosophy for the untrained mind. Even a fool can put 
up some philosophical show, and in no department of 
human intellectual activity is it harder to detect the fact 
that the performance is worthless. Hence philosophy is 
everybody’s preserve. 

While the main reason for the popularity and pros- 
perity of philosophical idiots is the difficulty of dis- 
tinguishing the fruits of profound speculation from the 
froth of undisciplined imagination, a number of sub- 
sidiary causes contributes to the same end. 

(i) Scope of Subject Matter. There is, first, the all- 
embracing subject matter of philosophy. I shall return 
to the significance of this point in a later chapter,' where 
the practice of philosophizing is to be officially defended. 
For the present I am content to point out that, if the 
universe as a whole is the subject matter of one’s study, 
it is extremely venturesome to assert that anything falls 
outside its scope. Iri fact there is a sense in which no- 
thing can fall outside its scope. When one is concerned 
with the nature of being as such and the nature of 
knowing as such, it is exceedingly doubtful whether one is 
entitled to rule out any observation, however wild, as 
irrelevant. You cannot, therefore, when a fervent biblio- 
phile draws your attention to the profound cosmic sig- 
nificance of the Egyptian pyramids, be absolutely certain 
that he is talking nonsense. 

* See Chapter VII. 


24 



The Subjective Element in Philosophy 

(2) The Subjective Element in Philosophy. In the second 
place, it is clear that one cannot in fact study every- 
thing. Therefore one selects, and selects according to 
principles which one uses as threads through the maze. 
How does one arrive at these principles? By reflecting 
upon what seems to one significant. Looking at the 
universe as a whole, one man marks evidence of benefi- ^ 
cent creation and guidance, while another sees only a 
chaos of meaningless events. The general aspect which 
the universe comes, in the course of one’s experience of 
living in it, to wear largely determines the principles 
which govern one’s selection of phenomena for investi- 
gation. 

Consider, for instance, the perfection of a fine summer 
evening. There is a sunset afterglow and an immense 
tranquillity predisposes the soul to reflect upon the 
beauty of nature and the beneficence of the creator 
whose handiwork it is. But not Thomas Hardy’s. After 
an exquisitely moving description in one of his novels of 
just such a scene, he concludes with ‘the cry of some 
small bird that was being done to death by an owl in an 
adjacent wood’. Of all the phenomena presented for his 
observation and enjoyment, this is the one which strikes 
Hardy as the most significant, pointing inescapably to 
the malignancy of the spirit that informs things, or to its 
absolute unminded callousness: 

'Man's passions, virtues, vices, crimes obey resistingly 
The purposive, unmotived, dominant Thing 
Which sways, in brooding dark, their wayfaring.' 


25 



‘ Bunkumismus^ or Reason’s Underworld 


It is a Thing which ‘Works unconsciously. . . . Eternal 
artistries in Circumstance’. 

I Now the aspects of phenomena one selects as signifi- 
fcant and the resultant principles upon which one’s inter- 
pretation of the cosmos are framed, are, it is obvious, to 
a large extent subjective. This being so, it is clearly pre- 
sumptuous to use any one interpretation as a stick with 
which to beat any other, difficult to say: ‘It is perfectly 
obvious that you are talking palpable nonsense.’ What I 
suppose one ought to say is: ‘In the light of my philoso- 
phy it certainly seems as if you are talking palpable 
nonsense; but it is just possible that it is only in the light 
of my philosophy that it appears to be nonsense; from 
another standpoint it may not be nonsense at all.’ And, 
if the views which I propose to criticize in later chapters 
are after all correct, if modern relativism can be ac- 
cepted as final, if philosophies are, as Huxley avers, 
not only largely subjective but completely lacking 
in any element of objectivity, if his description of 
what we call thought — ‘men promote their fancies to 
the rank of universal Truths’, and ‘still imagine that 
they know something about the thing in itself’ — is the 
beginning and end of the subject, so that one would be 
justified in saying with him, ‘Science is no '‘‘truer” than 
common sense or lunacy’, if, I say, these things are so, 
then it would be nonsensical to attempt a criticism of 
nonsense; for to say of a theory that it was nonsense 
would be a meaningless expression. It would be at 
worst a fairy story about the universe, projected 
into the external world by a mind that expressed itself 

26 



Philosophy incapable of Verijicaiion 

in different fairy stories from those of the critic. - 

Huxley, who of all writers can bear fools the least 
gladly, is the least entitled to call any fool a fool. Sdll 
Huxley’s view is sufficiently near the truth to make it 
more hazardous to dismiss a philosophical theory than a 
scientific one. It is unfortunate that his popularity as a 
writer should have made it more hazardous than it need 
have been. For it is, in part, to the widespread attack up- 
on reason to-day, and to the general lowering of stan- 
dards of thought and criticism which the belittling of 
reason has engendered, that the phenomenon of philoso- 
phizing financiers is due. Or rather, while the pheno- 
menon no doubt existed in all ages, its prominence and , 
audacity in print is peculiar to our own. Rich men with 
philosophical bees in their bonnets there must, I suppose, 
always have been; but it is only in Anglo-Saxon coun- 
tries in the third and fourth decades of the twentieth 
century that they can count upon an audience for their 
buzzing. 

(3) Philosophy incapable of Verification. Thirdly, there is 
the fact upon which I hope to enlarge* in a later 
chapter, that philosophical assertions are incapable' 
of experiment2il verification. If a man proposes to 
make statements about the universe as a whole, he 
must, it is obvious, know the whole of the universe to be 
able to check his statements; if his conclusions purport 
to be true for all time, it will be necessary to have lived 
through all time to know that they are. 

’ See Chapter V, pages 172, 173. 

27 



‘ Bunkumismus’ or Reason’s Underworld 

The following letter announcing the discovery of the 
truth about the universe which I recently received from 
a lady, will serve to illustrate my point. 

‘Dear Sir, 

‘I was deeply interested in your article in the 
I think that in your turn you will be interested in my 
new Planetary Formation Theory which brings, quite 
naturally, in its train all that has been discovered: the 
solutions of present perplexities and hidden laws; while 
all phenomena of the Universe fit as closely as an epi- 
dermis. There is nothing in it that is inexplicable from 
the formation of the Earth up to the present, and its 
inevitable future is clearly pointed out. From this clari- 
fied view of Creation I have appended a short list of 
wrong conceptions, and am prepared to make this 
theory known to the world, when I can come in contact 
with a man of science who is willing to collaborate with 
me. May I suggest such collaboration for your consider- 
ation? 

‘Yours faithfully.’ 

Then follows the list of ‘Wrong Conceptions’, which is 
as follows: 

‘Theories of Creation; of Gravitation. 

The Earth’s centre as a molten mass. 

The Sun as an orb of fire or heat; Sun-spots. 

Planetary relationships; interstellar content. 

Solar and Lunar radiation; Volcanic theory. 

The finite and the infinite. 


28 



Philosophy incapable of Verification 

Eternity; the racial and the individual aspect. 

God and the Demon. 

Mind; cause of disease. 

The what, how and why of being. 

Life and Death. 

Reappearance.’ 

To this list is appended the note: ‘These are all rectified 
by the new theory of the universe.’ 

Now, in so far as the assertions included in this list are 
of a scientific character they are, I suppose, at least in 
theory capable of experimental verification. It is, for 
example, theoretically possible to verify the assertion 
that the Earth’s centre is a molten mass, although the 
verification may be impracticable at the moment; while 
that the sun is ‘an orb of fire or heat’ was, I should have 
thought, not only theoretically verifiable but practically 
verified. But when we come to the more specifically 
philosophical items on the list, and consider examples 
of ‘Wrong Conceptions’ such as ‘Mind; cause of dis- 
ease’ (presumably the ‘wrong conception’ is ''that Mind 
is the cause of disease’), or ‘The what, how and why of 
being’, I do not see how it is possible to verify them. In 
so far as the alleged error of these Conceptions involves 
any assertion, it might be stated in the form: ‘It is false to 
hold that mind is the cause of disease’; ‘it is wrong to 
think that being has a what, how and why.’ The only 
possible comment seems to be: ‘Possibly, possibly not.’ 
One knows of course that the statements are pure balder- 
dash, the offspring of a brain badly attacked by the 

29 



‘Bunkumismus’ or Reason’s Underworld 

philosophical maggot; but I really do not see how one is 
to />rotie that they are balderdash. 

Similarly, when somebody abruptly announces that 
the universe is ether, or that it is light, or that it is a mist 
of darkness surrounding a core of light, or that it is a 
‘structurated synthesis’, it is impossible to be sure that 
there is no sense in which some one of these assertions 
might not be partially true. That matter is ‘sensation in 
the sensationless’, that it is ‘life resulting in death and 
death in life’ — announcements these by Mrs. Eddy — are 
assertions which to me are almost entirely meaningless; 
they are a mere putting together of words. But just 
because they are superficially meaningless, they can be 
shown by an ingenious commentator to bear any one of 
an enormous number of different meanings; and, in a 
universe of this size and complexity, one can never be 
quite certain tfiat in some one of these meanings the 
words might not bear some relation to some kind of 
fact. It seems to me unlikely that they do; and if they do, 
the relation must, I should imagine, be incredibly re- 
mote. Nevertheless, one can never be quite sure that 
some grain of significance may not be hidden in this 
mountain of nonsense. 

And the reason why one cannot is just this inability to 
verify by results, which is one of the great embarrass- 
ments of philosophy. It is an embarrassment whose 
appropriate consequence should be humility in asser- 
tion and tentativeness in conclusion. The measure of our 
uncertainty of truth should be the measure of our hesita- 
tion in asserting pretentious truth claims. Unfortunately 

30 



The Blessed Faculty of Intuition 

the results have too often been precisely the contrary. 
Knowing that they cannot be called to the bar of evi- 
dence, men have supplied the place of knowledge by 
converting their conjectures into dogmas. In all ages 
they have announced obiter dicta upon the universe. But 
in none have they announced dicta of such over- 
weening pretentiousness as in our own. 


(4) The Blessed Faculty of /a/K?hV?«. -Fourthly, there is 
the blessed faculty of intuition. Intuition is a word 
which covers a multitude of intellectual sins. Of its 
employment as a method for the discovery 6f truth, and 
of the limitations of that employment I have written 
elsewhere.! I believe that intuition is one of the most 
valuable, as it is also the most lately evolved of human 
faculties, and that, rightly used, it is capable of exhibit- ' 
ing to the mind’s awareness aspects of reality which are 
inaccessible to the logical reason. I believe, further, that 
this intuitive awareness of reality confers the most 
valuable experiences which the human mind, ' at its 
present level of evolution 2 uy development, enjoys. The 
artist’s appreciation of beauty, the love of the religious 
mystic for God, the activity of the mathematical or 
scientific miod in ‘jumping’ to the apprehension of new 
syntheses, are all in my view intuitional. Yet intuition is 
not, I would suggest, in the long run something set apart 
and divorced from reason. The truth of the matter 
seems to be rather that a chain of close reasoning carried 
out by a trained and disciplined intelligence prepares 
’ See my Philosophical Aspects of Modern Science, Chapter VII. 

3 * 



‘ Bunkumismus’ or Reason’s Underworld 

the mind for those cognitive ‘jumps’,* which are in- 
volved in the apprehension of all new truth and are the 
appropriate culminations of all reasoning processes.' 
Yet these ‘jumps’, although they may be endorsed by 
subsequent reasoning, are not themselves made by 
reason in the strict sense of the word ‘reason’. 

But although a theoretical defence of intuition may be 
made on these lines, it is not thus that intuition is nor- 
mally employed. The resort to intuition is too often in 
practice a device to avoid hard thinking, or a cover to 
' disguise the lack of thought. A woman’s intuition about 
people and things is the sort of thing that she has when 
she is wrong; a philosopher’s intuition about the uni- 
verse leads him to announce conclusions which there is 
no reason to think true. Those whose reason is trained 
in dialectic will have little difficulty in finding plausible 
arguments for any metaphysical belief they chose to 
propound. Thus for their wildest announcements the 
theologians and schoolmen could always invoke an 
elaborate train of justificatory reasoning. To-day the 
dialectical reason is as a general rule insufficiently 
trained to be able to produce plausible arguments for 
wild hypotheses and the bare pronouncements of the 
intuitive faculty are usually held to be sufficient. 

Public and Private Truths. The advantage of intuitive 
pronouncements is that they need not be substantiated; 
need not, because they cannot. In so far as a conviction 
is communicable, it is reasonable; in so far as it is reason- 

* Seefurthei'ChaplcrIlI,pages96-iooand Chapter VIII, pages 
219-223 and 234. 


32 



Mystics and Others 

able, it is communicable. This is not to say that there 
may not be convictions which cannot be supported by 
reason; still less that such convictions may not be true; 
but they must remain private. That seven times seven 
make forty-nine is a reasonable proposition of whose 
truth I am convinced. I can also undertake to convey 
my conviction by reasoned demonstration to anybody 
who is not an imbecile. I can make him feel what it is 
like to be convinced that seven times seven make forty- 
nine; I can make him see it for himself, as Socrates in 
the Meno makes the slave see propositions about triangles 
for himself. That I have a toothache is a non-reasonable 
proposition of which I am convinced; but, although ! ; 
can make somebody else understand that I have it, I am 
totally unable to convey to him what having the tooth- 
ache is like, unless he too has at some time in the past 
had a similar experience. I cannot, in fact, make him' 
feel my toothache for me, unless he has at some time or 
other felt it for himself. 

Intuitive conclusions are in this respect like the tooth- 
ache; they remain meaningless to others, unless others 
have shared, in however limited a degree, the experi- 
ences upon which they are based. ' 

Mystics and Others. Herein lies the root of men’s diffi- 
culty in accepting the plain fact of mysticism. In so far 
as the mystic is one whose spiritual sensibilities are de- 
veloped beyond those of his fellows, he is a biological 
‘sport’ on the spiritual plane, and, as such, will enjoy ex- 
periences which are not shared by his fellows. And, be- 


c 


33 



‘ Bunkumismils’ or Reasons’ Underworld 

cause they are not shared, he will be completely unable 
to describe or to communicate them. Language was in- 
vented to convey the meanings of this world; it cannot 
be used as a vehicle for communicating those of another. 
If, therefore, the mystic experiences the strictly unutter- 
able, he will be wise to avoid trying to utter it. He does 
try, nevertheless, and talks of ‘a dazzling darkness’ and 
‘a delicious desert’, with the inevitable result that he is 
regarded by the layman as an elevated madman. 
Wrongly, since we have no reason to suppose that the 
boundaries of reality arc necessarily coterminous with 
the intellectual horizon of the average twentieth -century 
Nordic adult. The trouble is that the privileges of the 
mystic in this matter can be and arc claimed by non- 
mystics, including the book collectors, financiers and 
theatrical producers with whom this chapter began. 
They too proclaim intuitive knowledge of the nature of 
things, and, soaring on the wings of inspiration, look 
down with contempt upon the pedestrian reasonings of 
those who venture to criticize. There are matters, they 
would have us believe, too high for reason. Or rather, as 
one of them himself assured me, the heart has its reasons 
of.which the head knows nothing. How presumptuous, 
then, of reason to intrude itself into spheres where it is 
out of place, as when, for example, it presumes to sub- 
ject to the processes of rational criticism a financier’s 
metaphysics. If they are inconsistent metaphysics, well, 
then they are inconsistent. But how academic, how 
pedestrian, how like a professional logic chopper to 
point it out! 


34 



Influence of Psycho-Analysis 

(5) Influence of Psycho-Analysis. For this current im- 
patience with reasoned criticism countenance is found 
in current psycho-analytic theory. Freud and Jung and 
Adler, no less than Huxley and Lawrence, have com- 
bined to sow distrust of reason, and to represent it as a 
mere tool of the unconscious. 

This doctrine has proved a godsend to fools. Those } 
who are weak in the head have not hesitated to substi- 
tute the stirrings of the bowels for the processes of reason, 
and successful business men, equally devoid of a philo- 
sophical background and a critical training, do not ' 
scruple to present us with the truth about the universe ' 
in monographs of fifteen pages. Christian Science, 
Spiritualism and Theosophy, inner-light mysticism and 
the philosophizings of the Stock Exchange are the chil- 
dren begotten by intuition out of ignorance. They are 
perennial products of the human mind, appearing in a 
new guise in every age. Previous ages have contrived 
with more or less success to ignore them, with the result 
that sooner or later they have perished from inanition. 
But to-day psycho-analysis has come forward as a 
wet nurse to nourish and to foster, with the result; 
that the nonsense mortality-rate was never so low and ^ 
our age teftns with the discoveries of short cuts to 
truth. 

(6) Difliculty of Determining the Philosophers Credentials. 

, It is extremely difficult to say what the qualifications of 
a philosopher should be. If a chemist does not know the 
number, the order and the atomic weight of the ele- 


35 



^ Bunkumismus’ or Reason’s Underworld 

ments, if a mathematician does not know his factors, if a 
geologist cannot distinguish primary from tertiary 
rocks, we recognize his incompetence and dismiss him 
as a fraud. If a painter cannot draw stredght or an archi- 
tect build straight, the fact is immediately apt>arent; 
but, if a would-be philosopher cannot think straight, the 
fact is not so easy to detect. Moreover, if he has the gift 
of words and has the good fortune, which he rarely 
lacks, to attract a following of those who mistake elo- 
quence for argument and believe that, if a thing is said 
pften enough and with an ever-increasing degree of 
emphasis, it somehow becomes true, he may never be 
exposed at all. Philosophizing is like acting and organ- 
izing in the sense that there are no specific marks or 
badges which can be produced for inspection as an 
assurance of their holder’s ability to do his job. Philo- 
sophy, in fact, has no characteristic stigmata of com- 
petence. Hence, just as nearly everybody thinks he can 
act, and most people believe themselves to be organ- 
izers, so everybody can cherish the view that at bottom 
he is a bit of a philosopher with a reasonable measure 
of assurance that his pretensions in this direction, if he 
makes them known, will not be exposed. 

But, when all is said that can be said touching the 
difficulty of discovering philosophical truth, the diffi- 
culty, when you have discovered it, of being sure that 
you have, and the difficulty of communicating your 
conclusions to anybody else, there are, it seems to me, 
certain qualifications which those who claim to enquire 
by the exercise of reason into the nature of things must 

36 



Philosopher's Qualifications (i) Knowledge of Past 

possess, in the absence of which their speculations may 
usually be dismissed as worthless. 

ni 

Qualijkations of the Philosopher, (i) Knowledge of the 
Thought of the Past. First, he must have a knowledge of the 
past of philosophical speculation. It may be true that 
previous philosophers have spent most of their time in 
criticizing one another’s philosophies, and that the corpus 
of philosophical knowledge which may be regarded as 
established beyond cavil is very small. Nevertheless, 
some Conclusions may be taken as established, and it is 
desirable to know what they are, in order not to waste 
time in re-establishing them. Many mistakes have also 
been made; it is even more desirable to know what they 
are, in order not to make them over again. Moreover, 
some acquaintance with the critical methods of great ^ 
thinkers engenders a critical attitude to one’s own 
thought. 

Even if it can be shoWn that the conclusions of the 
great philosophers were usually wrong, they were some- 
times right. Now it is more important to know where a 
philosophy is right, than to know where it is wrong. 
Finally, whether right or wrong, adl the great philoso- 
phers managed in the course of developing their thought 
to say a number of highly important things about 
human life and the way in which it should be lived. 
Even where the structure as a whole is unsound, the 
detailed work is often rich. Schopenhauer, for example, 
produced a philosophy which on its metaphysical side 

37 



‘ Bunkumisrnus' or Reason’s Underworld 

is almost certainly wrong, and which, so far as its ethics 
are concerned, is revolting; yet in the course of its ex- 
position he lets fall a number of detailed observations 
about things and people which seem to me to be of the 
highest value, and contrives by some miracle to establish 
a theory which is, taken in sum, the most appalling 
nonsense, by means of a number of separate obser- 
vations which contain the most profound and original 
sense. 

Schopenhauer’s is not an isolated case. The treatment 
of special subjects by particular philosophers is often in 
the highest degree illuminating, nor is its value for us 
diminished by the fact of our disagreement with the 
philosophy as a whole. Butler’s account of cool self-love,' 
and Aristotle’s account of pleasure — to cite two in- 
stances which will crop up in the course of later chap- 
ters — are conspicuous examples of the power which 
the great philosophers have of extending and enriching 
our comprehension of life as a whole, enabling us to find 
in the world more challenge to our interest, more stimu- 
lus to our curiosity, more scope for our sympathy, our 
understanding, even for our passion, than we found 
before. 

Thus it is not only for their truth or the lapk of it, as I 
shall try in a final chapter to show, that wc- read the 
philosophers. To know what great men have said and 
thought in the past is one of the first duties of those 
who would think in the present, and those who claim 
to philosophize, neglect this duty at their peril. My 

1 See Chapter VI, pages 183-185. 

38 



Philosopher’s Qualifications fiij Some Culture 

financiers, book collectors, theatrical producers et hoc 
genus omne have completely neglected it. 

Qualifications of the Philosopher. («) Some Culture. 
Secondly, it is necessary that he should possess some 
culture in the most general sense of the word. Culture 
may be partially defined as a concern with those matters 
which do not concern one personally and which cannot 
possibly conduce to one’s advantage. To this extent my 
rich friends, owing to the circumstance of their having 
become preoccupied late in life with cosmic matters, 
may be regarded as cultured. I do them the justice to 
concede that it was not the desire to increase their 
wealth, to enhance their social reputations, or even — 
although this wtis no doubt a subsidiary motive — to 
achieve celebrity as thinkers, that prompted them to 
write their nonsense. 

But the definition, although true so far as it goes, is 
not exhaustive. Some knowledge of the past achieve- 
ments of the race and, more particularly, of its art and 
thought, some acquaintance with and respect for its 
traditions, some capacity not only for criticism but for 
appraisement of the work upon which its traditions are 
based, all these are essential parts of culture. Together 
they build up certain standards of literary and intellec- 
tual taste which, while they neither guarantee origin- 
ality nor contribute to power of thought, at least pre- 
vent a thinker from making a fool of himself. They 
ensure that even when what he says is false, it is at least 
respectably false; that even when it is nonsense, it is the 


39 



^ Bunkumismiis’ or Reason's Underworld 

right kind of nonsense. Just as a first-rate musical critic 
turned musical composer will be saved by his experience 
from the composition of music which is palpably 
vulgar and trivial, and produce respectably competent 
work or none at all, so a mind which is impregnated 
with the best of the thought of its predecessors and con- 
temporaries will be automatically educated up to a level 
of critical taste at which the production of pretentious 
banality in the name of philosophy will be impossible. 

Qualifications of the Philosopher. (Hi) Ability to Think. 
Thirdly, there must be a capacity for sustained and co- 
herent thinking. The mind, in fact, must, be able to 
reason. To reason is not merely to assert but to produce 
grounds for one’s assertion. It is to show that B is true 
because A is true, that B in fact follows from A. ‘Thus’ and 
‘hence’ and ‘therefore’; ‘is followed by’, ‘the conclusion 
is’, ‘the evidence suggests’, are the words and phrases 
that one should expect to find in a chaih of reasoning. 
Lacking these, the would-be philosophy becomes a 
series of announcements devoid of authority save such 
as is conferred by the conviction of the announcer; it is a 
mere saying of things. 

Now this power of sustained reasoning is to a large 
extent acquired. A clear head is no doubt a natural 
endowment, and, lacking it, no amount of exercise and 
training will enable a man to think clearly. But equally 
no mind, however clear, unless it is developed by exer- 
cise and training, can think fruitfully. Just as grammar 
supplies the rules of speech, so logic supplies those^c^ 

40 



Digressive Protest against the ‘New Education^ 

thought. No doubt a mind untrained in logic will by 
long and patient endeavour discover some of these rules 
for itself, just as a company of children brought up by 
deaf mutes will sooner or later evolve rules of gram- 
matical speech for itself. But I cannot see what is gained 
by encouraging every mind to make afresh for itself the 
discoveries which its predecessors have made for it. 
My business friends would never dream of permitting 
their children to discover the rules of arithmetic un- 
aided, still less of engaging a clerk who had made up an 
arithmetic for himself. They insist that their children 
and clerks shall equip themselves for the business of get- 
ting on in the world by acquiring the elementary 
accomplishment of ciphering. Why then should they 
presume to undertake the more arduous labour of 
abstract thinking without subjecting their minds to the 
equivalent discipline of logic? That individual spon- 
taneity should not be overladen with the weight of 
other men’s knowledge is no doubt important. But it is 
equally important that the instrument of individual ! 
thinking should be sharpened by training along the. 
lines which others have laid down. 

Digressive, Protest against the 'New Education'. There is 
perceptible to-day a salutary reaction against the ex- 
treme libertarianism of the ‘New Education’. Ten years 
ago advanced educationalists refused to instruct either 
the minds or the morals of their children. ‘The vilest 
abortionist’, Shaw had said, ‘is he who attempts to 
mould a child’s character,’ and wishing not to impede 


41 



^ Bunkumismus’ or Reason’s Underworld 

the free development of their charges, teachers took a 
pride in withholding instruction in matters of fact and 
guidance in matters of morals. Children were not only 
to discover for themselves the fundamental principles 
of science and geometry, even, it would seem, the funda- 
mental rules of Latin and French grammar; they were 
also to determine their own conduct, to solve for them- 
selves their moral problems. To-day many have come to 
see that this procedure imposes upon the ehild’s mind a 
strain which it is incapable of bearing, by forcing upon 
it the necessity of decisions which it is unfitted to make. 

To require a young mind to decide every question for 
itself upon merits is unfair. It has neither the data nor 
' the equipment for such decision. In practice it becomes 
strained, in extreme cases exhausted, by this obligation 
which the eccentric libertarianism of its parents has 
laid upon it, and the faculties of judgment and decision 
are weakened instead of strengthened by being called 
into play before their time. A child who is allowed to 
make all its mistakes for itself, with nobody but itself to 
blame for making them, must continuously meet disas- 
ter. The world will appear to such a one as a place 
where the exercise of continuous care is necessary, if 
one is to avoid discomfiture, and the most, apparently 
innocuqus actions produce the most disconcerting and 
disproportionate results. 

Moreover, the child, having no one to grumble at but 
himself, loses one of childhood’s most reliable compensa- 
tions, the fun of blaming ‘grown-ups’. 

These are only some of the results which follow from 


42 



Philosopher’s Qualijications (iv) Art of Exposition 

wilfully depriving children of the accumulated wisdom 
of the race in the form of moral instruction and practi- 
cal guidance in the art of living. To tell a child at the 
outset that there are certain things which as a require- 
ment of practical wisdom it must, certain things which 
it must not do, if it does not want to be punished, is not 
to cramp its spontaneity or to abort its character; it is to 
save 'it an immense amount of trouble in finding out 
what these things are for itself. Similarly, to insist that 
those who undertake the task of speculating at large 
about the universe should acquaint themselves in ad- 
vance with the fact that there are certain things which 
as a matter of logical necessity one must not think, cer- 
tain things which one must, is at once to save them the 
trouble of making for themselves all the mistakes which 
thinkers have made in the past, and to protect their 
work from the unmitigated contempt of thinkers in the 
present. Such acquaintance is made in the study of 
logic and of the history of philosophy. These studies 
admittedly arc not a royal road to truth, but they do 
constitute a safeguard against straying down every by- 
road of error. 

Qualifications of the Philosopher, {iv) The Art of Exposition. 
Fourthly, there is needful some skill in the ^rt of ex- 
position. Those who are not content with truth when 
they have found it but feel constrained to communicate 
it to others must learn how to express themselves. The 
need for clarity of expression is nowhere greater than in 
philosophy. Philosophy is bound from its very nature to 


43 



‘ Bunkumismus' or Reason’s Underworld 

be difficult and obscure. But its obscurity may be due 
to one or other of two different causes. There is the ex- 
pression of obscurity, and there is obscurity of expres- 
sion. The former is pardonable; it is probably inevit- 
able. There is no necessary reason — at least I am aware of 
none — why the nature of the universe should be such as 
to be readily comprehensible by the intelligences of 
twentieth-century Nordic adults, and those who see fur- 
ther into it than their fellows are bound, when they 
come to report what they have seen, to appear obscure 
to their fellows. But obscurity of expression is simply 
aitother name for bad craftsmanship. A thinker who ' 
wishes to be understood should study to make himself 
understandable. He should learn the art of clear and; 
concise statement, and never use long and esoteric words 
when his meaning can be conveyed equally well by 
short, familiar ones. He should not hesitate to make a 
copious use of metaphor and simile, he should illustrate 
continuously by means of concrete examples, and he 
should never talk about any subject without first ex- 
plaining why he is proposing to teilk about it, which 
means, among other things, indicating its relevance to 
the subject about which he has just been talking. 

Vested Interests in Philosophy. Many professional philo- 
sophers, it must be admitted, habitually neglect these 
rules. Particularly do philosophical lecturers, who, one 
might have supposed, would, since it is after all their 
profession, make a specieil study of the art of lucid ex- 
pression, neglect them. Philosophical lecturers are for 


44 



The Blight of Obscurity 

the mo-st jjart intolerably obscure; they have a horror 
of illustrating their reasoning by examples, and the un- 
necessary technicality of the terms they habitually em- 
ploy suggests a Trade Unionist’s disinclination to dis- 
close to outsiders the secrets of his craft, by allowing 
them to suppose that it can be practised by persons who 
have not first received technical instruction in its mys- 
teries. If it were once conceded that philosophy could 
be usefully pursued by those unlearned in the jargon of 
philosophers, the prestige and in the long run the 
selling value of philosophy would diminish. There is a 
vested interest in philosophy as in everything else, and 
its maintenance depends upon nobody being allowed to 
dispel the myth that the difficulty of philosophy is so 
extreme, that it is only by invoking and incidentally 
paying for the assistance of professional philosophers 
that the uninitiated can hope to understand it. 

When professional philosophers so often set a bad 
example, it is not to be expected that business men, 
whose systems arc attacked by philosophy, in their years 
of retirement, will set a better. 

The Blight of Obscurity. Nor do they. The lucubrations 
of my friend's which have caused me so much embarrass- 
ment have been for the most part meaningless. Mean- 
inglessness, indeed, has been their most embarrassing 
quality. If a meaning is clear, you can at least make up 
your mind whether it seems to you to be right or wrong; 
and, even if wrong, what there is to be said in its favour. 
And warmed by your host’s dinner, mellowed by his 


45 



‘ Bunkumismus’ or Reason’s Underworld 

wine, you say it. I can make shift to say a good word on 
behalf even of nonsense, provided that I know what sort 
of nonsense it is. But if I do not? If the writer’s intentions 
are so completely obscured by his mode of expressing 
them, that it is impossible to discover what they are, 
then in seeking to encourage I may do just the reverse, 
praising a monist for his dualism, a spiritualist for his 
materialism, a transcendentalist for his immanentism, 
and a believer in any and every available cult and ‘ism’ 
for the forthrightness of his general scepticism. 

I do not wish to be thought to suggest that there was 
in fact some undiscemed core of rational meaning in the 
productions to which I have referred. I do not think 
that there was. My hosts’ conversation on metaphysical 
topics, which sooner or later in the evening they would 
infallibly open, precluded any such supposition. Their 
written lucubrations were, I suspect, nothing but the 
froth of ill-stored and inadvisably stirred minds. But 
even if there had been, it would have been so smothered 
beneath the grandiose and swelling utterances of the 
writer, that, so far at least as I was concerned, it would 
have remained undetected. And so, the most exasperat- 
ing thing about the whole sorry business is the half- 
thought, of which I can never quite rid myself, that 
there may have been something in these productions 
after all. Just one grain of truth, perhaps, in one of them! 
It is not much to ask and I could vwsh that it were so. 
But my reason, instinct, training, education, critical 
sense, every faculty whether natural or acquired, that I 
possess, combine to assure me that it is not so. 

46 



‘Scientific Statement of Being' 

preliminary observations before commenting in a littie 
more detail. 

First, what I have quoted is a pronouncement, not an 
argument. It is a succession of unsupported statements. 
No grounds are given for any of these statements, except 
for the last, when the blessed word ‘therefore’ is intro- 
duced once to lead up to the conclusion that man is not 
material, because he is made in God’s image and God is 
spirit. The presumption behind this ‘therefore’ is, I take 
it, that the premise ‘man is made in God’s image’ is 
more certain, or at least more obvious, than the con- 
clusion ‘man is not material’. Forthis reason, the second 
statement is considered to follow from the first. Since this 
is the only argument used, it seems a pity that it should 
be such a bad one. That I am made in God’s image is, 
of course, possible; but it does not seem to me to be 
nearly so certain as that I have teeth. Now teeth cer- 
tainly appear to be material; nor is any good argument 
adduced for convincing me that they are not. The 
correct form of the argument should therefore be: ‘I 
possess teeth; in some sense, indeed, I am my teeth, as I 
realize only too well when they ache: teeth are material; 
therefore I cannot be made in God’s image, unless He 
also has teeth and is material.’ 

Secondly, if ‘God is AH’, there cannot be ariy thing but 
God. Therefore, there cannot be matter, and there can- 
not be a false belief that there is matter. (The possibili- 
ties that matter Is a part of God is, I suppose, ruled out 
by the further statement that ‘God is Spirit’.) Now 
it is of course the case that, even if there was no 


D 


49 



‘ Bunkumismus’ or Reason’s Underworld 

matter, I could falsely beUeve that there was. But I 
cannot feilsely believe that there is matter, if there is no 
such thing ^ls false belief. Therefore, not only is matter 
an illusion, but nobody falsely believes matter to be real. 
In fact, there is nobody to believe anytHng except God, 
since ‘God is AH’. Why, then, one cannot help asking, 
all this fuss? 

Error and Sin. Why, in particular, the heartburning 
over error and sin and the threat of punishment for 
error. For consider the following: 

'Punishment of Error. 

' We acknowledge God's forgiveness of sin in the destruction of 
sin and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal. 
But the belief in sin is punishable so long as the belief lasts.' 

This remarkable assertion prompts the following ques- 
tions. (i) If there is only God, what is meant by talking 
about evil and error? Do these exist in addition to God? 
Presumably not. Are they parts of God? Certainly not. 
Are they illusions? Yes, they are! 

But (2) if there is only God, how can there be illu- 
sions? Can God’s mind create and nourish them? No. 
Can mine? I think that it can. But, if it can, my mind 
must be other than God’s, and all is not God. 

Moreover (3) I certainly believe that I sulfer and that 
men do me evil. This belief, I am assured, is a delusion, 
since ‘evil is unreal’, and so is suffering. Therefore, in 
believing as 1 do, I am making a mistake. Is the mistake 
real or not? Clearly real, since, if the mistake were itself 


50 



Error and Sin 


illusory, it would not be really false to hold that I really 
suffer and that men really do me evil. If it were not really 
false to hold this, then my belief that I suffer and that 
men do me evil would stand, and evil and pain would 
be real. The mistake, then, cannot itself ht illusory. It 
follows that the mistake must be real, real in whatever 
sense of the word ‘real’ evil and pain are asserted to be 
other than ‘real’. It seems, therefore, that we cannot 
escape the view that there must be ‘real’ error in the 
world, if we wish to eliminate from it ‘real’ pain and 
evil. 

But (4) can we in fact eliminate them? Let us suppose, 
to take a topical example, that a German pacifist, 
socialist who does not believe that war is the most 
satisfactory method of settling international disputes, 
and who is inclined to regard the present economic 
organization of society as in certain respects regrettable, 
is beaten up by young men, fired by counter-revolution- 
ary enthusiasm. He is, let us say, beaten with leather 
riding whips and steel rods which curl round his face, 
break his cheekbones and smash his right eye. The force 
of the blows presently renders him unconscious. His 
assailants, still pursuing their efforts to convince him of 
the error of his ways and opinions by endearing to him 
their own, restore him to consciousness by applying 
lighted cigarette ends to the soles of his feet and matches 
to his beard and moustache. When he is again conscious 
and they are assured of his renewed ability to feel, the 
whole process is repeated da capo. 

Now, speaking for myself, I am convinced that the 

51 



• ‘ Bunkumismus’ or Reason’s Underworld 

pacifist in ‘question suffers pain and that he is the 
victim of evil, of the evil, namely, of cruelty, which seems 
to me to be the worst of all sins. Christian Science doc- 
trine assures me that, since this belief is false, I am, in 
holding it, myself sinning, and warns me that I shall 
in due course be punished for my sin. 

Difficulties in the Doctrine of Sin and Evil. I am naturally 
not anxious to accept this assurance, and it is not with- 
out satisfaction that I find it exposed to the following 
difficulties: 

( I ) There is the absurdity of asking us to suppose (a) 
that the philosopher is not really being hurt, but falsely 
thinks that he is; (b) that his assailants are not really in- 
tending to do him evil, but that they only think that 
they are. Personally I am far more certain'that both the 
existence of pain and the existence of cruelty are facts 
than I can be of the truth of any train of argument 
which seeks to assure me that they are not. Even if it 
werq divinely revealed to Mrs. Eddy that they are not, a 
revelation asserted to have been made to somebody else 
in the past cannot, in the absence of any evidence in its 
favour, possibly be as convincing to the assailed philo- 
sopher as the certainty of the present feeling of pain in 
himself. 

(52) (a) Although sin is unreal, the belief in sin is, we 
are told, punishable ‘so long as the belief lasts’. There 
can be no punishment by a just God for that which is 
not wrong. We cannot, then, suppose that the belief that 
sin is real is not itself a sin. Now this belief as held, for 


5 '^ 



The Doctrine that Pain is Unreal 

example, by myself, is certainly real; I really do believe 
that cruelty is a sin. The belief that sin is not real is, 
then, it would seem, an exception to the view that sin is 
not real. 

(b) If the belief that pain is real and cruelty a sin is 
itself a sin, we reach the conclusion that when A tortures 
B for his own sadistic amusement, the sinner is not A 
but B, since B sins by falsely thinking that A hurts him. 
This conclusion seems to me frankly absurd. Moreover, 
how is B to be cured of his sin? As long as he believes he 
is being wilfully hurt by A, he will, we are told, be pun- 
ished for his false belief in A’s sin and his own pain. 
What form will this punishment take? Presumably, that 
of suffering, either physical or mental. I at least can con- 
ceive of punishment in no other terms. This further 
suffering the unfortunate B will still insist on consider- 
ing to be real — if he did not think it real, it would not be 
suffering, and would not, therefore, punish — and, so 
considering, would repeat his sin of holding sin to be 
real. This repeated sin would again deserve punishment, 
and so on ad infinitum. It seems difficult, therefore, to see 
how anyone can ever reach ‘the spiritual understanding 
that casts out evil as unreal’. 

• 

(3) The Doctrine that Pain is Unreal. Whatever we may 
think of ‘sin’ and ‘evil’, which owing to the ambiguity of 
these expressions may be interpreted in any one of a 
number of different senses, some one of which might 
conceivably render the statements quoted from the 
Christian Science Bible not absolutely absurd, the doc- 


53 



‘ Bunkumismus' or Reason’s Underworld- 

trine that pain is unreal seems to me to be so im- 
measurably silly, that I cannot bring myself to dignify 
it further with serious comment. In this respect I find 
myself in agreement with an esteemed contemporary of 
mine at Oxford who, at the close of a long and exhaust- 
ing scholarship examination lasting over four days, was 
asked to write a three-hour essay on the thesis pro- 
pounded by the Stoics: ‘The good man can be happy 
even on the rack.’ Irritated by the foolishness of the 
remark, and determining by one magnificent gesture 
finally to dispel his not very rosy chances of obtaining 
the scholarship, he commented briefly: ‘If the man was 
a very good man, and the rack was a very bad rack, this 
might be true. Otherwise not!’ and handed in his paper. 
The comment seems to me to be final. 

But it is the metaphysical rather than the ethical 
doctrines of Christian Science which I wish chiefly to 
commend to the attention of the readers of this chapter, 
not because they are either more or less foolish, but be- 
cause they are more relevant to its main theme, the 
effects of metaphysics upon weak heads. I append, 
therefore, a final quotation on ‘matter’. 

Mrs. Eddy on 'Matter'. Suspecting that thic word was 
being used in a number of surprising senses, I looked it 
up in the glossary of terms at the end of Mrs. Eddy’s 
book, and found it defined as follows: 

'Matter: Mortality; another name for mortal mind; illusion; 
intelligence; substance and life in non-intelligence and mortality; 


54 



Mrs. Eddy on ‘Matter^ 

life resulting in death and death in life; sensation in the sensa- 
tionless; mind originating in matter; the opposite of truth; the 
opposite of spirit; the opposite of God; that of which immortal 
Mind takes no cognizarue; that which the world mind sees, hears, 
tastes and smells only in belief.' 

Truly a formidable definition, and, when we remember 
that it describes an illusion, a surprising one. You have 
forgotten that matter is an illusion? Please to bear in 
mind that ‘God is AH’. Now matter is ‘the opposite of 
God’. But if God is All, there can be no opposite to Him. 
Therefore, that which is said to be His opposite, cannot 
exist. 

Why, then, you naturally wonder, say all these things 
about it? Or what in the name of clarity and common 
sense can the author of this ethico-religious, uplifting 
twaddle be about, when she ascribes all these character- 
istics to something that, on her own showing, does not 
exist; when she so laboriously defines what is not? I do 
not know. Nor is my bewilderment lightened by dis- 
covering that, although matter is an illusion, known not 
really but ‘only in belief’, it can nevertheless produce 
certain highly important effects. 

For exaraple, under the heading 'This material body we 
have accepted', I read ‘We are all essential to God’. ‘The 
universe is governed by perfect laws like mathematics’ ; 
‘Matter’ — we conclude with the usual dig at matter — 
‘Matter is an illusion’. These, we are told, are familiar 
truths. Why, then do we not recognize them? 

Because: ‘The material standpoint hides [them] from 


55 



* Bunkumismus^ or Reason’s Underworld 

us.’ Also: ‘The material existence sometimes gets us 
down.’ Matter, then, although an illusion, is sufficiently 
real to prevent us from realizing that it is an illusion. It 
also ‘gets us down’. Now this is really very odd. Either 
matter is real, or else it is not. If it is real, it must be 
Gpd, since God is ‘All in all’. We also, if We are real 
— and Mrs. Eddy does not suggest that we are not — 
are parts of God. Now that God should hide truths from 
us, that is to say, from parts of Himself, seems very odd. 
Also how does God ‘get Himself down’? 

If, on the other hand, matter is not real, how can it 
possibly hide anything or depress anyone? If it be said 
that it is only our false belief in it that hides and de- 
presses, there are the difficulties first, that there must be 
something to account for this universal false belief— it is 
inconceivable that all minds should wilfully but unani- 
mously invent the same error for themselves, if there was 
absolutely nothing to account for it — and, secondly, that 
insistence on the reality of the false belief in matter 
results, as I have already noted, merely in the substitu- 
tion of real error for real matter. You cannot, in fact, 
postulate God or Spirit as the only reality and every- 
thing else as an illusion, without giving some account 
of the source of the illusion. „ 

Scolding of Christian Science. The plain fact is, of course, 
that there are numberless individual minds which be- 
lieve that pain and evil occur and that matter is real. 
Christian Scientists, while holding officially that ‘God is 
AH’, nevertheless treat their own individual minds both 

56 



Scolding of Christian Science 

as real and as individual, making their Church out of 
them and addressing their propaganda to them. They 
then proceed to dismiss most of the universally held 
beliefs of the minds in question as illusory, without 
giving any reasons in favour of this wholesale dismissal 
or any account of the origin of the illusions. 

When pressed they take refuge in a cloud of words, 
identifying matter with ‘mortal mind’, yet defining it as 
‘sensation in the sensationless*, thus blandly denying 
mind its most obvious distinguishing capacity, the 
capacity for receiving sensations; postulating a God who 
knows everything, yet telling us that His ‘Immortal 
mind takes no cognizance’ of matter; assuring us that 
‘Immortal Mind’ is everything, yet, without a word of 
explanation, asking us to accept the existence of minds 
which are mortal; defining matter as the opposite of 
truth, spirit and God, as if there were no difficulty in 
supposing God, truth and spirit to be identical; pre- 
dicating matter as real in order the better to denounce 
it as unreal, and committing every conceivable solecism 
that the maggot of faith can breed in the womb of intel- 
lectual incompetence. 

I cannot bear further to soil the perfection of these 
things with comment. I content myself with remarking 
that it is only an age which has seen the twilight not only 
of reUgion but of reason that could have given birth to a 
creed that combines the worst features of both, using 
reason without precision to support a faith without 
dignity. 


57 



Chapter II 

Defence of Value — I. Value in the Modem 
World 

★ 

Chartres Cathedral. That Chartres Cathedral is one of 
the most glorious sights that rejoices the eye of man few 
will be found to deny. It is, indeed, a miracle of loveli- 
ness. It is of great size and towering height; yet, so per- 
fect is the proportioning of its parts, that it appears of 
only moderate dimensions even to a ‘close up’ view. It 
looks, for example, no larger than Winchester cathedral, 
much smaller than St. Paul’s. It is, says the guide book, 
the most perfect monument that the Middle Ages have 
bequeathed to posterity. I am quite ready to believe it. 

The cathedral is encircled on the outside with the 
faces and figures not only of angels and saints, but of 
devils; hundreds of devils, and of the most grotesque 
shapes, thrusting their malignant countenanees from the 
numberless parapets and buttresses to threaten or to leer 
at an indifferent world. At least, it is indifferent to-day. 
We do not now believe in the reality of objective evi|; 
and after a casual glance at the devils we glance away 
again, too busy with our sightseeing to meditate upon 
the mood of their makers. If we spare them a second 

58 



Chartres Cathedral 

look, it is only to laugh at* their hideousness. For the 
Middle Ages, I suppose, they were real enough, visible 
emblems of the powers of darkness, which were believed 
to be as integral a part of the constitution of the universe 
as those of goodness and of light. Why were they featured 
in a temple to their enemies, God and His angels? Partly, 
perhaps, in propitiation, partly in scorn. The intention, 
it may well have been, was to humiliate them by giving 
them positions ludicrous, undignified or obscure. The 
suggestion is the merest guesswork. So far is the mood 
of the sculptors of the Middle Ages from our modem 
comprehension, that to speculate upon their motives is 
idle. It is enough that we should have their work. And 
their work, I repeat, is lovely. What is most remarkable 
is the combination of simplicity and complexity. It is 
not that a balance has been struck; the two modes, the 
simplicity, the complexity, exist side by side; yet neither 
interferes with the effect of the other. On the one hand 
there are the bare, stark outlines of the southern tower; 
on the other the infinite multiplicity of detail of the 
northern, a multiplicity which extends over the cathe- 
dral as a'whole, so that looking down upon the maze of 
turrets, gargoyles, statues, pillars, buttresses, arches 
and parapets, one seems less to be regarding a single 
building than a whole city in which nothing’would be 
easier than for the stranger to lose his way. Yet the com 
plexity never degenerates into a muddle. By some miracle 
form is retained, and the infinitely numerous details fall 
effortlessly into their places tis parts of an integrate^ 
whole. 


59 



I. Value in the Modem World 

Within are solemnity and grandeur. Immense pillars 
soar to the decorated roof, and the many windows of 
highly coloured glass difhise a light, dim but incredibly 
rich, over the vast interior. Chartres Cathedral is a 
monument to the glory of the human spirit; like a Bach 
fugue or a Mozart quartet it bears witness to all that 
the human spirit might be, would like to be, in its most 
optimistic moments conceives that it will be, and in 
practice, ^das, so rarely is. Rarely, and as the centuries 
go by, it would seem, increasingly rarely. 

Aeroplane Sheds. On the hill opposite the cathedral 
across the river valley, along which the houses of the old 
town are strung, there is an aerodrome. Enormous tin 
shapes, the homes of the aeroplanes, squat hugely upon 
the flat top of the down. A line of poles connected by 
wires runs along its edge. The grass is gashed and rutted, 
the hilbide littered with refuse, while hoardings and 
enamel signs advertising drinks and cosmetics sprout 
from the outraged earth. Up the side of this hill creep 
rows of new houses strung out singly along the road, or 
clotting into patches of angry pink. The whole hill- 
side with its formless sprawl of tin and brass and harsh 
new tiling is like a shout, a shout which is a»continuous 
embodied insult to the lovely building which stands 
opposite. Meanwhile the aeroplanes roar and-swoop im- 
partially over the twentieth century and the twelfth, 
circling round the towers of the cathedral and rending 
the peace which has immemorially surrounded it. 


6o 



The Twentieth Century and the Twelfth 

The Twentieth Century and the Twelfth. In this ganglion 
of vulgarity and ugliness which fronts the beauty of the 
cathedral there is a note of deliberate defiance. It is 
exactly as if a small and dirty boy, unable to respond to 
beauty save by a feeling of vague discomfort — here is 
something which, he feels, he cannot understand, yet 
resents, resents because he is conscious that it belittles 
him, making him feel small and cheap and vulgar — is 
moved to assert his independence and to recover his self- 
respect by cocking snooks at what discomfits him. But 
although he cannot understand, he can destroy. I visited 
Chartres on the 13th July. In preparation for tlie fete 
upon the fourteenth a fleet of aeroplanes was rehearsing 
a demonstration. The cathedral was at once the base 
and the target of their operations. Arranged in three 
squadrons they flew over and round it, circled the 
towers, descended almost to the ground before the West 
front and then in echelon formation climbed slowly up 
its face. 

As a symbol of power the demonstration was prodigi- 
ous. Any single bomb dropped from any one of the so 
easily circling planes would, it was sufficiently obvious, 
reduce the cathedral to ruins. As a manifestation of taste 
it was, one felt, less impressive. Detonating and erupting 
as they postured before that magnificent edifice, the 
aeroplanes constituted the appropriate, the final com- 
ment of the twentieth century upon the twelfth. It was 
natural and inevitable for the men of the twelfth century 
to build what was beautiful; it is, it seems, natural and 
inevitable for our own generation to construct what is 

(it 



/. Value in the Modem World 

ugly. I do not mean that we cannot build beautifully, if 
we please; but we so rarely do please. Beauty, indeed, is 
not for us an obvious, an overriding consideration. We 
are concerned with speed, with cheapness, with effici- 
ency, and we attain them; but with beauty we are not 
concerned. And the result is that whenever some typical 
product of the twentieth century confronts us side by 
side with a monument of the past, we cannot avoid 
being humiliated by the contrast. 

That you may realize it to the full, travel to Oxford by 
train. The first glimpse of the city reveals the dreaming 
spires celebrated by poets and guide books and vulgar- 
ized in innumerable picture postcards. As you draw 
nearer, you see first an outer scurf of staring pink villas, 
and then the yellow dinginess of the mean buildings that 
surround the station; the first is the typical expression of 
the twentieth, the second of the nineteenth century. In 
the middle there stands still intact the core of grey 
buildings which has made the loveliness of Oxford fam- 
ous, but the core is engirt by ever-deepening rings of 
meanness and squalor, as successive generations leave 
their mark upon the city. 

Beauty and its Lack in Stone, Sound and Wordi'. If we look 
at the buildings of the Cotswolds, at an Essex village, at 
a Queen Anne country house, or at Chartres Cathedral, 
and then compare them with the typical products of this 
age and the last, petrol pumps and garages, bungalows 
and railway stations, miners’ cottages and national 
schools, gas works and power stations and rich men’s 

62 



Beauty and its Lack in Stone, Sound and Words 

‘follies’, we must, I think, concede that ours is not an 
age that expresses itself easily in visual beauty. 

Nor in audible. There was a period comprising the 
major part of the seventeenth and the first half of the 
eighteenth century, when a musician had only to set pen 
to paper to compose something which would at least not 
outrage a critical taste, which was at least reasonably 
good. Almost all the first-rate music of the world was 
composed during a period of about a hundred and fifty 
years from 1685, when Bach, Handel and Scarlatti were 
born, to 1828 when Schubert died. But in addition to 
the great men, the good second-raters produced music 
that was worth more than all that has been written since 
the period ended, while the ordinary hack men writing 
decent, presentable stuff were as thick as blackberries in 
September. Our own age is so poor in creative artists 
that, if none of the sounds made since Schubert died 
were ever to be heard again, I for one should not care a 
row of semiquavers. 

As with sound and stone, so also with words. Every- 
body more or less in fifth-century Athens seems to have 
written reasonably well; everybody more or less in 
Elizabethan England and in eighteenth-century France; 
the Augu^ans wrote well enough; the Victorians 
produced a round dozen of first-rate poets ahd half a 
dozen supreme novelists. Compared with the literature 
of these favoured periods, our own is poverty stricken. If 
you want to know precisely how poverty stricken, read 
those corroding books of literary appraisement, or rather 
of literary denigration byF.R. and Q,. Leavis. We have 

63 



' I. Value in the Modem World 

of course our big men; we have Shaw and Wells from 
the immediate past; we have Virginia Woolf, Joyce and, 
I should like to add, Forster in the present. But com- 
pared with the enormous bulk of the writing public, the 
first-rank writers are negligible. Never before, as Mrs. 
Leavis has pointed out, were there so many writers; 
never has the proportion of great ones to the rest been so 
low. In short, this is no more an age of great literature 
than it is an age of great music, great painting or great 
architecture. The fact is, and the admission may as well 
be made now as later, that, taking us by and large, we 
do not produce beauty. Why not? Partly, I suggest, 
because we do not appreciate it whp n we meet it, or miss 
it when we do not; because, in fact, we are not con- 
cerned with it one way or the other. 

Twentieth-Century Ideals. Our ideals lie in other direc- 
tions. They are mainly bound up with the movement of 
pieces of matter. So far as those pieces of matter which 
are our own bodies are concerned, we desire not only 
that they should be moved but moved quickly. Hence 
the modem cult of speed. The distinctively modem use 
which we make of our bodies is to cause them to be 
transported as frequently as possible and aS rapidly as 
possible from place to place. In regard to inorganic 
pieces of matter, we enjoy and admire the rapid dis- 
placement at controlled speeds and in specified direc- 
tions of small round pieces of matter by long thin ones 
in the shape of mallets, bats, cues, clubs, sticks and 
rackets; also by leather boots. For the rest we amuse 

64 



The Cult of Speed 

ourselves with the pursuit of sport, which is the name we 
give to the introduction of small pieces of metal from a 
safe distance into the bodies of defenceless birds and 
beasts, and exhaust ourselves in the pursuit of wealth, 
\yhich we desire mainly in order that we may expend it 
in the accumulation of the largest possible number of 
complex material objects, such as houses, refrigerators, 
radio sets, porcelain baths, telephones, motor cars, pieces 
of shining metal, coloured stones, and, if we are persons 
of high culture, articles of ‘virtu’ such as ‘old masters’, 
Chippendale furniture, or Spode china. 

In this way material things, their movement and their 
accumulation come to dominate our lives and to form 
the ideals of our leisure. And these ideals are cultivated 
not, as one might have been tempted to suppose, for the 
sake of any of the traditional ends of human activity, 
because of the happiness they bring, the beauty they 
create, the truth they make plain, the good they do, but 
for their own sweet selves. 

The Cult of Speed. Consider, for example, our addic- 
tion to the rapid conveyance of our bodies in petrol- 
propelled mechanisms over the surface of the earth. If 
two men leave Manchester for Bettws-y-Coed and the 
one drives so gently that not a single speck ofdust on a 
pedestrian’s shoe is disturbed, while the other drives so 
vigorously that he leaves a trail of frightened humanity 
along the whole route, what margin separates the pair 
at their journey’s end in Wales? Fifteen minutes! And 
how does the speed devotee spend that quarter of an 

E 65 



/. Value in the Modern World 

hour which he has stolen from the clasp of inexorable 
Time? He lounges, all liver and no legs, in the bar a 
little longer before he feeds, consumes an extra cocktail, 
toys with a few stale magazines, grumbles that his food 
is not ready, brags a little about his driving. . . . The 
world suffers through his speed; and it suffers to no 
noble purpose. If he were a surgeon hastening to a 
purulent appendix, we could bear with him. If he were 
a lover fresh home from the Indies yearning to meet his 
bride, we could bear with him. If he obtained any real 
or lasting satisfaction from his speed debauch, his con- 
duct, although still intolerable, would be at least excus- 
able. But he does not. He is just a fool in a hurry. He has 
no possible defence for his folly, and we know it as well 
as he knows it. 

Amusements of the Fortunate. With no obligation but to 
promote the satisfaction of their devotees, the final 
criticism of the ideals of the modern world is that they 
fail to satisfy. Consider for a moment the habits 
of the unemployed rich who, possessing not only the 
money but the leisure to gratify their tastes, epitomize 
in their pursuits the ideals of our civilization. You 
will find them engaged in enjoyment tout court on 
the Riviera, where there exists an industry for the sole 
purpose of providing with amusements those who can- 
not amuse themselves. Those engaged in this industry 
proceed on the supposition that the temperament of rich 
and idle persons is equivalent to that of small, spoilt 
children. Since, however, they are in years adults, a 

66 



Introduction of Absolute Values 

circumstance which makes it impracticable to force 
them to do things by beating them, and, since in order 
to escape the demon of boredom they must nevertheless 
do things, the object of this industry is to create in them 
the impression that they are discovering interesting and 
important things to do for themselves. It is a fundamen- 
tal principle among those engaged in inventing occupa- 
tions for the rich to discover for themselves that they can 
never stand any amusement for more than an hour. 
Before the hour is over they become bored and, like 
spoilt children tiring of their toys, must be amused with 
something else. They spend an hour in sunbathing, an 
hour at a motor rally, an hour at polo, an hour at cock- 
tails and reading the papers in the sun. The theatre 
thoughtfully provides long intervals so that people may 
gamble as a relief from watching the play, and there is 
dancing as a relief from gambling. They have a particu- 
lar penchant on the Riviera for shooting half-blinded 
pigeons. For my part, I do not find it surprising that the 
suicide rate among the unemployed rich is the highest 
of any class of the community. 

Introduction of Absolute Values. Personally — and I hope 
that it wilPnot set the reader against me — I take an old- 
fashioned view of the issues raised by the Riviera con- 
cept of the ‘good time’. I believe that the universe con- 
tains certain elements or factors which are uniquely arid 
absolutely valuable. And when I say that they are abso- 
lutely valuable, I mean among other things — although 
this is not all that I mean — first, that they are desired 

67 



I. Value in the Modern World 

for their own sake and not for the sake of any further 
good that may -accrue from their pursuit or possession; 
and, secondly, that they would remain valuable, even if 
nobody desired them. 

That there must be some things which are desired for 
their own sake is, I think, tolerably plain. Conceive that 
on a particular occasion I desire something, desire it, 
that is to say, in relation to some special purpose that I 
wish to serve, to some end that I have in view. I have a 
cold, or believe that I am about to have a cold and desire 
quinine. ‘Quinine’, I say, ‘is good for a cold. I want some 
quinine.’ Now nobody supposes that I want quinine 
for its own sweet sake; I desire it for the sake of some- 
thing else. What else? In order that it may confer im- 
munity fronfi colds. But immunity from colds is not 
desired by me for its own sake. It is too negative, too 
limited an ideal. I desire, then, to be immune from colds 
for some ulterior reason because, let us say, I want 
health, and, so long as I have or am liable to have a 
cold, I cannot be healthy. Why, then, do I desire health? 
At this point I may introduce an absolute value; I may 
say that I desire health for its own sake, because I in- 
tuitively perceive health to be something which is good 
in itself and which requires, therefore, neithfcr justifica- 
tion nor commendation — if you can’t, I may answer a 
sceptic, see that health is a good thing, then I have 
no more to say to you. Or I may hold that health in 
itself is of no value; it is valuable only because of the use I 
make of it, or because of the greater energy and efficiency 
it confers, or because it is a sine qua non of happiness. 

68 



The Universe of Science 

Why, then, do I desire energy or efficiency or happi- 
ness? Energy might be valued because the energetic 
man wins power or fame. Do I, then, desire power or 
fame for themselves? Possibly, possibly not! But, if not, 
if I give the answer that I do not desire these things in 
and for themselves, I shall always find myself committed 
to some further object of desire as a means to which these 
things, which I do not desire merely for themselves, are 
regarded as conducive, and, because conducive, there- 
fore desirable. And obviously I must stop somewhere. 
Some things, it is obvious, must be desired for themselves 
alone; some things must be recognized as uniquely and 
ultimately valuable, so that, were we to achieve them — 
not that we ever do — we should not then find ourselves 
led on to some further thing which they helped to bring 
within our grasp, but should rest and be content with 
them. Such things I call absolute values, or ultimate 
values. 

The Universe of Science. The judgment of mankind — 
based, we must suppose, upon its experience — has fined 
down the number of these things which are ultimately 
valuable in themselves to three. Truth, Goodness and 
Beauty, to. which I think a further. Happiness, should 
probably be added. Truth, Goodness and Beauty arc 
the ^wagers of philosophy. At this moment, in common 
with most dowagers they are under a cloud. It is com- 
monly urged that the so-called absolute and objective 
values arc neither absolute nor objective; that they are 
subjective figments projected by the mind of man uponi 

69 



1. Value in the Modern World 

the empty canvas of a valueless universe. Mrs. Grundy 
in the nineteenth century was regarded as a real person; 
to-day she is reg2irded as the personification of the envy 
of elderly females seeking to deter their youngers from 
the enjoyments denied to themselves by their lack of 
charm. Similarly with the Dowagers. Mrs. Grundy is 
presented as an embodied figment of prohibition; th^ 
are the embodied figments of consolation; of consolation 
and of assurance. 

The universe revealed by science is, we know, im- 
measurably huge; it is also, so far as we can tell, com- 
pletely lifeless. In the vast immensiti« of geologic^ 
space and astronomical time life seems like a tiny glow, 
flickering uncertainly for a while but doomed ultimately 
to extinction, so soon as the material conditions which 
gave it birth cease to obtain. One day the sun will either 
collide with another star, or go out. When that catas- 
trophe happens, life will cease to be. Meanwhile it 
strays an unwanted and incidental passenger across a 
fundamentally hostile environment, an environment in 
which the alien and the brutal conditions and underlies 
the fiiendly and the spiritual. 

Such are the outlines of the universe sketched by 
science. And; frankly, we find it intolerable ;,so intoler- 
able, that we are driven to clothe the universe with the 
whimsies of our imagination in order to be able to 
assure ourselves that its physical appearance is not all. \ 
It is not the whole of reality, it is not even reality at all, for 
behind it, we argue, there must be something which is 
spiritual and akin to ourselves, something which, once ? 

70 



Subjectivism in the Climate of the Age 

conceived in our own immediate image as God, has to- 
day with the growth of sophistication been depersonal- 
ized — do we not pride ourselves upon our emancipation 
from the gross anthropomorphbm of savages? — into the 
three Dowagers. The Dowagers, then, are not objective 
factors in the universe; they are emanations projected 
by the mind of man. So the scientists explaining, and 
not only explaining but explaining away, value. . . . 

Subjectivism in the Climate of the Age. So also my students, 
at least the more intelligent of them who, coming to 
philosophy classes with a stock of idccis which embody 
what they be h'eveto be the conclusions of modern science, 
hilt which in fart represent tbp science of so me 

fifty y^nrs agff) MJihesita ti'Tg’y 

a^rthrst ^ that only materi ai pvict anH ar<- real- 

sccon^^ that J? e - auty - and -tmth_gffe onl y i deas iii- t he 
mind of man; and thirdly, tha t the.-mind o f man is -prob- 
ablylmlv-a xamouflage d versiop of his brain. Any argu- 
ment to the contrary is received with suspicion as tend- 
ing to bolster up that dimodi superstition, supernatural 
Christianity, as derogatory to science, and as unbecom- 
ing the dignity of the rational mind. 

I ask them whether, if the number three is only an ' 
idea in the human mind, twice three would cease to 
make six, if nobody knew that it made six. I ask them ' 
why, if beauty is merely a quality which the mind j)ro- 
jects, it projects it into some things, pictures for example, 
and not into others such as pieces of string. Does not this, 

I ask, suggest the possession in its own right by the object 

71 



1. Valu§, in the Modem World 

into which beauty is ‘projected’ of some quality which 
stimulates the projection? What account, then, are we 
to give of this independent, objective, stimulating quality 
which is possessed by the object in its own right? Is it 
not perhaps, precisely the quality which men have 
wished to designate by the name of ‘beauty’? I ask also 
whether, if the quality of beauty is ‘projected’ or im- 
puted by the mind, the quality of squareness is also 
imputed by the mind. If it is, do they believe that chess- 
boards are not really square. If it is not, on what prin- 
ciple do they propose to distinguish between the one 
quality and the other? As to matter, which is alone 
asserted to be really real, I ask them what precisely, in 
the light of modern physics, they think matter is? If their 
view that matter alone is real is correct, that view must 
itself be real. What sort of matter then, is the view that 
only^ matter is real? Or that seven times seven make 
forty-nine? And so on, and so on. . . . 

The methods by which students are discomfited will 
not be particularly interesting to my readers, who are 
not likely to be as simple as my students. What is inter- 
esting is the fact that the views in question receive coun- 
tenance not only from the science of fifty years ago, but 
from the most widely tead authors of to-day; for ex- 
ample, from Aldous Huxley, the guide, philosopher and 
friend of the intelligent, modern young, whom my stu- 
dents frequently quote in their support. Huxley’s horror 
of absolutes and values, his dislike of any kind of ob- 
jectivity is, indeed, so characteristic of the age that I 
propose in this and subsequent chapters to examine in 

72 



Preliminary Appearance of Aldous Huxley 

some little detail his utterances on the subject, taking 
them as typical of much modern thought. 

Preliminary Appeararue 'of Aldous Huxley. I have, for ex- 
ample, dealt in the fourth chapter of this book with the 
philosophical implications of Huxley’s denial of values, 
and tried to show how, in logic, such denial stultifies 
itself. You cannot, for instance, deny the absoluteness 
6f truth as Huxley does — for example, ‘No psychological 
experience’ (that is to say, no conviction, no belief, no 
idea) ‘is “truer”, so far as we are concerned, than any 
other. . . . Science is no “truer” than common sense 
or lunacy, than art or religion. . . . For, even if one 
should correspond more closely to things in themselves 
as perceived by some hypothetical non-human being, 
it would be impossible for us to discover which it was’ — 
you cannot, I say, make these denials without invalidat- 
ing your own statement of your case. For, if there is no 
such thing as truth, it cannot be true to say so; if no 
theory is ‘truer’ than another, the arguments against 
absolute truth are no ‘truer’ than the contrary argu- 
ments in its favour. For the present, however, I am 
concerned not with logical difficulties but with the prac- 
tical consequences of this denial of absolute values, and 
more particularly with the effect upon public taste of 
the denial of the value of beauty. 

That Huxley does deny it, that he is as rude to the 
other Dowagers, Beauty and Goodness, as he is disre- 
spectful to the dowager Truth, is clear enough to any 
careful reader of his books. Indeed, he is quite warm 

73 



I. Value in the Modem World 

about the matter. The following passage disavowing and 
exposing the Absolutes from his celebrated essay on Pas- 
cal is typical; ‘A similar conjuring trick . . . draws the 
Good and the Beautiful out of the seething hotch potch 
of diverse human tastes and sensibilities and interests, de- 
duces Justice from our actual inequalities, and absolute 
Truth from the necessary . . . relativities of daily life. It 
is by an exactly similar process that children invent 
imaginary playthings to amuse their solitudes, and trans- 
form a dull, uninteresting piece of wood into a horse, a 
ship, a railway train — what you will.’ 

At the same time Mr. Huxley has become, of late 
years especially, a very hortatory person. Continually 
he enjoins us to pursue this kind of activity, to eschew 
that. Rightly in my view, since some things are, indeed, 
better, better absolutely and in themselves, than others. 
Moreover, in his role of guide to which things are in fact 
better, I find him admirable. 

Huxley's Value 'Life'. And the excuse he makes for his 
apparent inconsistency, for giving advice and, I repeat, 
such excellent advice, when, on his own premises, he has 
no business to give advice at all, is that we ought to en- 
courage life amd that those things are, therefore, good 
which promote it. For Life — ^it seems impossible in view 
of Huxley’s reverential attitude to avoid the capital 
letter; nor does Huxley avoid it — is, it would seem, for 
Huxley a value; Life tout court. He is, he tells us in this 
same essay on Pascal, ‘a worshipper of life, who accepts 
all the conflicting facts of human existence’. And the 

74 ' 



Huxley’s ^Life’ compared with Mill’s ‘Pleasure’ 

gospel of the Life-accepter is that we should live to the 
full extent of all our various faculties and capacities; we 
should develop evety side of our nature, realize all that 
we have it in us to be. The Greek ethic in this connec- 
tion is praised at the expense of the Christian. To starve 
one side of our selves in the interests of another, the 
flesh, for example in order to refine the spirit, the appe- 
tites in order to sharpen the mind, is an offence against 
Life: ‘To live’, we are told, ‘the soul must be in intimate 
contact with the world, must assimilate it through all 
the channels of sense and desire, thought and feeling 
which nature has provided for the purpose.’ 

As with practice, so with theory. Not only is the gospel 
of Life the gospel to live by, but the fullest, the best, the 
most Life-promoting answers to the questions of philo- 
sophy are the truest. ‘The best answers’, Huxley con- 
cludes, to the problems of ethics and religion, ‘are those 
which permit the answerer to live most fully.’ And, if 
we ask why this variegated Life, this ballet of all the 
faculties, this chorus of all the talents, is to be com- 
mended, the answer is given in an essay ‘One and 
Many’ by a direct judgment of value. ‘I am assuming’, 
says Huxley, ‘it is an act of faith — that more and in- 
tenser life is preferable to less and feebler life.’ Life, in 
fact, is the standeird of value, the goal of existence, the 
meaning of the universe. Life, in short, is olivine: ‘God for 
our human purposes’, Huxley concludes, ‘is simply Life.’ 

HuxUfs ‘Life' compared with J. S. Mill's ‘Pleasure'. Now 
this really will not do. It will not do in the first place, 

. 75 



1. Value in the Modem World 

because to reverence Life as such is to shut one’s eyes to 
the most obvious distinctions of quality. Worshipping 
Life as such, Huxley is guilty of the same blunder as 
J. S. Mill when, informing us that pleasure alone was 
desirable. Mill was forced by the plain facts of experi* 
ence to make distinctions between qualities of pleasure. 
Pleasure alone is the good, said Mill, dutifully echoing 
his father, James Mill and Jeremy Bentham. Are all 
pleasures, then, we want to know, of equal worth, pro- 
vided they be of equal amount? Is ‘push-pin’ really as 
good as poetry? Bentham had answered that it was; but 
the answer was too much for Mill’s common sense. Mill 
was a cultivated man of wide interests and generous 
sensibilities; he simply could not subscribe to the view 
that the pleasures of a pig were as much worth having as 
mose of a Socrates, merely because their quantity was 
'the same. And so he concedes: ‘Of two pleasures ... if 
one is, by those who are competently acquainted with 
both, placed so far above the other that they prefer it, 
even though knowing it to be attended with a greater amount of 
discomfort, and they would not resign it for any quantity 
of the other pleasure which their nature is capable of, 
we are justified in ascribing to the preferred enjoyment 
a superiority in quality so far outweighing quantity, as 
to render it in comparison of small account.’ ‘It is bet- 
ter’, he concludes, ‘to be a human being dissatisfied 
than a pig satisfied.’ But the concession virtually des- 
troys the position. For, if a smaller quantity of ‘higher’ 
pleasure is to be preferred to a larger quantity of lower, 
this can only be because something other than pleasure 

76 



Life as such not a Good 

is admitted to be desirable, namely its height. Now 
‘higher’ pleasure cannot be equated simply with more 
pleasure, or more intense pleasure, because, if it were, a 
smaller quantity of ‘higher’ pleasure would not in fact 
be a smaller quantity at all; it would simply be more 
pleasure quantitatively. ‘Higher’ pleasure must, there- 
fore, mean pleasure plus something else which is other 
than pleasure, but which is also recognized as desirable, 
and the view that pleasure alone is desirable must be 
abandoned. 

As with Mill’s pleasure, so with Huxley’s Life. There 
are, it is obvious, different kinds of life, different kinds 
and different qualities. The quality of life of the amoeba 
or of the polyp, for example, seems to me to be not only 
different from a man’s but — and I hope that the confes- 
sion will not set the reader against me on the score of 
complacency — inferior. It is less vivid, less rich in sensa- 
tion, less capable of the appreciation of Chartres Cathe- 
dral, of the music of Bach or the line of a Sussex down. 
Yet I have no reason to suppose that the polyp is any 
less alive than I am. So far as quantity is concerned, our 
respective degrees of livingness are, I see no reason to 
doubt, equal. Even among human beings some lives, I 
should venture to say, are less valuable than others, that 
of Torquemada than that of Michelangelo, that of 
Jack the Ripper than that of Mozart. 

Life as such not a Good. Life, indeed, as such cannot, it 
seems to me, be acclaimed a good, merely because it is 
life. Indiscriminate increase of population beyond the 

77 



I. Value in the Modern World 

capacity of the country to feed it is, I should say, a 
definite evil; so is indiscriminate increase of many kinds 
of bacteria and even quite a moderate increase of cancer 
cells. Life carries within itself not only ugliness, disease 
and pain, but the seeds of all that is vicious and hideous 
in human conduct. It is life that produces cruelty, tor- 
ture, malice, treachery and rape. 

But, if some lives are superior to others, if, to adapt 
Mill, reading ‘life’ for ‘pleasure’, one way of life ‘is, by 
those who are competently acquainted with both, 
placed so far above the others, that they prefer it, even 
though knowing it to be attended by’ a smaller amount 
of vitality, ‘then we are justified in ascribing to the pre- 
ferred’ life ‘a superiority in quality so far outweighing 
quantity as to render it in comparison of small account’. 
And in making this obvious concession to common sense, 
we are forced to give up the simplicity of the original 
position that all life is equally a good, as Mill was forced 
to give up the simplicity of the original position that all 
pleasure is equally a good. For if some lives are to be 
preferred to others which, being equally full, equally 
vital, are nevertheless deficient in respect of some quality 
which causes men to find the former preferable, then 
some things are valuable besides life. * 

The conclusion, inescapable in logic, is demanded by 
the most cursory consideration of acknowledged human 
valuations. Huxley is completely unable to maintain his 
posidon that all kinds of existence are equally valuable 
provided they be equally ‘lively’; with the best will in 
the world he simply cannot keep it up. Not only, having 

78 



The Cult of ‘Lowbrowism^ 

disavowed value^ does he, as we have seen, make a 
direct judgment of absolute value, the absolute value of 
Life; he goes on to imply others. At the beginning of his 
essay on Pascal he provisionally accepts Pascal’s classi- 
fication of the universe into three categories, ‘mind, 
matter and? finally, charity, grace, the supernatural, 
God or whatever other name you care to bestow on the 
third of the Pascalian orders’. Admittedly, he goes on 
to warn us against giving actuality to what are after all 
only abstractions made by the human intellect. But 
whatever kind of reality attaches to one order, matter 
for example, attaches also, he argues, to ‘charity, grace, 
the supernatural’. These, he affirms, are real in precisely 
the same sense as that in which matter is real. Now 
Huxley does not in practice trouble to deny the exist- 
ence of matter, however solipsistic his theory. And in 
practice he is no less hospitably disposed to the third 
realm of ‘charity, grace, the supernatural’, which I now 
propose to call the realm of value. In fact he persistently 
and most handsomely recognizes it. 

The Cult of ‘Lowbrowisrf. He has, for example, an 
admirable essay on the modern cult of ‘Lowbrowism’. 
In ‘Foreheads Villainously Low’ he discusses the con- 
temporary acceptance, the almost defiant acceptance of 
‘lowness’ in art and life; the shamefaced disavowal of the 
beautiful and noble. He hais, for example, detected 
Ernest Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms suffering him- 
self to speak for a moment of ‘the bitter nail holes of 
Mantegna’s Christ’, and then shamefacedly passing on 

79 



1. Value' in the Modern World 

‘to speak once more of Lower Things’. It is just as if, 
Huxley comments, Mrs. Gaskcll ‘had somehow been 
betrayed into mentioning a water-closet’. 

Why this modern fear of culture, or rather this de- 
liberate cult of the low? Huxley has an ingenious ex- 
planation. It is because the ‘highbrow’ is* a bad con- 
sumer. To sit quietly in one’s room with a book, to play 
Bach on the piano, to wander for a day alone in the 
country, to give oneself to the enjoyment of ‘a green 
thought in a green shade’, does not involve one in con- 
sumption, the consumption that is of material goods. Or 
one consumes very little. Motoring and drinking, going 
to the races or to football matches, attending the cinema 
or the theatre, acquiring objects of utility or adornment, 
one gives employment, contributes to profits, keeps the 
wheels of industry turning. Contrast the pursuits of the 
highbrow. The highbrow is emphatically a man with 
whom advertisement has not succeeded. For my part, I 
have only to see a commodity advertised to abstain from 
buying it. Annoyed that the thing should be so blatantly 
thrust upon my attention, I tell myself that the money 
which might have gone into making it good has gone, at 
least in part, into telling me that it is good, when it is 
not. I know that this argument is economically fallaci- 
ous; nevertheless, I continue to employ it to justify myself 
in resisting appeals to buy toothpastes and cigarettes, 
whenever they are made to me. In pursuance of this 
poBay I have smoked the same tobacco for twenty years, 
I'ting^e changes upon a couple of suits until they drop 
to pi^^with age, and dispense with razors altogether 

8o 



Huxley the ‘ Arch- Highbrow’ 

by growing a beard. No doubt I am an extreme example 
of the highbrow’s advertisement phobia; but there arc 
plenty like me. The highbrow, then, is a bad consumer, 
and to be a bad consumer is to be a bad citizen. 

Hence, says Huxley, the modern deliberate cult of 
‘lowbrowism’; hence the modern disparagement of 
values and their resultant lowering. 

Huxley the ' Arch- Highbrow' . The explanation, as I say, 
is ingenious, but it really will not do. What right, for 
example, has Huxley to talk of ‘lower values’, if all 
values are subjective? Yet, when he wishes to castigate 
modern civilization, he docs talk of them and continu- 
ously. Continuously in his essays he passes judgments 
which imply that some things are really better than 
others, better and not merely more vital. Huxley, in- 
deed, is ‘the arch-highbrow of modern times’. It is thus 
that Low presents him in his New Statesman cartoon; it is 
thus that the New Statesman writer describes him. Not 
only is he a highbrow, he is a highbrow more complete 
than any age has yet product, since no age, as the New 
Statesman writer justly points out, has offered so great a 
variety of interests to a detached intelligence. His works 
are notables not because of the solidity and life-likeness 
of his characters, but because of the brilliance of their 
conversation; not because of the ingenuity of the plots 
which he has constructed, but because of the luminous 
intelligence of the mind that pervades them. It is in the i 
dry light of this intelligence that his works are continu- 
ously bathed. It is not only upon the sciences that 

8i 


F 



/, Value in the Modern World 

Huxley levies toll for his material, although he knows 
more about science than any living novelist, but upon 
history, art, religion, philosophy. He is par excellence the 
detached, cultured intellectual, delighting in what is 
noble and beautiful, hating what is vulgar and base. 

Listen to him, for example, at a ‘talkie’. With what a 
spate of withering invective he castigates the hogwash, 
the ‘not even fresh hogwash. Rancid hogwash, decaying 
hogwash’ of ‘yearning Mammy’ sentiment, and exhibits 
for our repulsion ‘those mournfully sagging, seasickishly 
undulating melodies of mother-love and nostalgia and 
yammering amorousness and clotted sensuality which 
have been the characteristically Jewish contributions to 
modern, popular music’. Listen to him again describing 
the revolution which will finally terminate our civiliza- 
tion, a revolution born not of poverty but of plenty, 
when mankind, furnished with comfort and a compe- 
tence on three or four hours machine-minding a day, 
seeks despairingly for the means of diverting its intoler- 
ably protracted leisure. The life that ensues, a life in 
which ‘ready-made creation-saving amusements spread 
an ever intenser boredom through ever wider spheres’, 
will, he prophesies, be ‘pointless and intolerable’, how 
‘pointless’ and how ‘intolerable’ he has striven with 
praiseworthy success in Brave New World to show us. 

Entry of Values by the Back Dooj. But to say of a life that 
it lacks point and significance, is to say nothing more 
or less than that it lacks values. For what after all is the 
matter with Brave New World? It has been deliberately 

82 



Huxley on Music 

bowdlerized of values. It is a world which has been sug- 
gested to Huxley by the spectacle of American civiliza- 
tion before the economic flood, a civilization which he 
deplores with the plaintive observation, ‘America has 
twenty-five million motor cars but almost no original 
art.’ Why does he deplore it? Because, he tells us, of its 
‘depressing effects on those human activities hitherto re- 
garded as the most valuable' (my italics). 

Huxley on Music. That Huxley is in truth intensely 
sensitive to values, and more particularly to the value 
we call beauty, nobody who has read him on the subject 
of music can doubt. That admirable passage at the be- 
ginning of Point Counterpoint where Lord Tantamount 
abandons his laboratory and appears shamefacedly 
among his guests drawn by the strains of Bach’s suite in 
B Minor for flute and strings, is conclusive evidence of 
the awareness by his creator not only of the ‘point’ of 
things, but of the significance of the part played by 
beauty in giving them ‘point’. Not only is Huxley in- 
tensely sensitive to values when he finds them, he can 
draw a terrifying picture of the man who can find no- 
thing else. Spandrell, at the end of the same book, 
playing the Adagio Molto of the Beethoven A Minor 
quartet, Opus 132, prior to committing sdicide, and 
finding in it apparently a complete answer to the riddle 
of the universe — it Vfzs, says Huxley, commenting on 
the effect produced by the music at the performance ol 
the play based on the book, it was ‘as though a god had 
really and visibly descended, awful and yet reassuring, 

83 



/. Value in the Modem World 

mysteriously wrapped in the peace that paisses all under- 
standing, divinely beautiful’ — ^is a frightful warning 
against being so perceptive of significance, so drunk 
with value, that one can no longer tolerate a world 
which contains so little of it. (It is a pity, I cannot help 
thinking, that Huxley invoked a posthumous Beethoven 
quartet to illustrate his point. Beethoven does not convey 
the quiet assurance of a perfectly understood universe. 
What he is all the time saying is ‘Here at last I am telling 
you the true, the final answer to things, if you could 
only understand me; here at last are the real cosmic 
goods, i/I could only “put them across”.’ But you don’t 
understand him, and hedoesnot ‘put them across’. Now 
Schubert, writing a year later, just seven weeks before 
his death, in the same vein, did manage to be com- 
prehensible about the cosmos, did ‘put it across’. Take, 
for instance, the Andante Sostenuto of the B Flat 
sonata. Here is not something which would be ineffable, 
did one but understand it. One does understand it, and 
it is ineffable. And there is not that sense of sweat and 
strain, that creaking of the machinery which in Beeth- 
oven. . . . However, I perceive that I am mounting a 
hobbyhorse.) 

Use of Inadmissible Expressions. Nor does Huxley in this 
vein hesitate to use the most tendentious, the most in- 
admissible expressions. Music, he tells us, is ‘divinely 
beautiful’, and proceeds to speak* of the ‘intuition of 
beauty’ as something which ‘profoundly significant, can 
* In ‘The Rest is Silence’, an Essay in Music at Night, 

84 



Use of Inadmissible Expressions 

only be experienced not expressed’. As for the language 
which he employs in describing the Benediclus in Beet- 
hoven’s Missa Solemnis in the title essay of the volume,' it 
is nothing short of scandalous. We hear of ‘the blessed- 
ness that is at the heart of things’, of the power of great 
art to express this ‘blessedness’. We read that ‘the sub- 
stance of a work of art is inseparable from its form’, and 
of ‘the elqquer^e ofpure form’. We learn that the ‘truth 
and the beauty’ of works of art are ‘two and yet, mys- 
teriously, one’, and arc warned that we cannot isolate 
‘the truth contained in a piece of music; for it is a beauty 
truth and inseparable from its partner’. 

Now what sort of language is this for a man who owns 
no values but that of vitality? Beautiful music does not 
always and necessarily increase vitality — ^it killed Span- 
drell — and, even when it does, it is not for that reason 
that we value it. The first movement of Bach’s violin 
concerto in E Flat, for example, is full of life. Moreover, 
it heightens the vitality of those who hear it. The second, 
slow, reflective, mysteriously lovely, is not vital at all. It 
carries one, in common parlance, out of this life alto- 
gether into another world. Nevertheless, we do not value 
it either less or more than the first, for the simple reason 
that vitalit?y has nothing to do with beauty. No, Huxley 
cannot keep it up; that is to say, he cannot keep values 
out. He may refuse to recognize the dowagers officially; 
he may even kick them down the front door steps; but 
they will come in by the back. 

‘ Musk at flight. 


85 



1. Value in the Modem World 

Huxlej/ as a Moralist. And of course he is right; right, 
not in his ofiici^ attitude, but in his practical repudia- 
tion of it. A sensitive and fastidious man, he cannot 
abstain from passionately preferring, acutely discrimin- 
ating. The fact that he cannot intellectually justify his 
discriminations does not prevent him from making them. 
Nor could it; for it is impossible for a cultivated man not 
to acknowledge the existence of that, in virtue of his 
sensibility^ to which^ he is cultivated. He may, out of 
mental cussedness, refuse to recognize value in theory; 
but his whole life is an acknowledgment of it in practice. 
Huxley is a brilliant writer, an admirable wit, a keen 
satirist, a good art critic; so much is implied in the title 
of ‘arch-highbrow’. But Huxley is something more than 
a highbrow, something more, and, from his official stand- 
point, something worse. He is also a powerful and origi- 
nal moralist with a paission for reforming his kind. He is 
thoroughly ashamed of this passion, and does his best to 
disavow it; but there is no mistaking the note which is so 
frequently sounded in his later works. It is the note of 
Swift, of Bunyan, of Blake, Emerson, J. A. Kensit and 
Bernard Shaw, the authentic note of the moral reformer 
to whom it is so intolerable to see people muddling their 
thoughts and mismanaging their lives, that* he simply 
cannot restrain himself from telling them how to think 
better and behave more sensibly. 

As moral reformer no less than as ‘highbrow’ moralist 
Huxley has done work of the highest importance. He 
has enriched the mind and cleansed the morals of our 
generation. He has opened its eyes to the futility of 

86 



Romantic Admiration of Life 

cleverness without ideals, and ‘debunked’ the delights 
of the ‘good time’. Also he has written some very lovely 
prose. 

Huxley, then, is a man pre-eminently aware of value; ■ 
he knows goodness, and wishes to see it actualized in the 
lives of men. Hence his moral earnestness. He is sensitive 
to beauty, and pays tribute to it wherever he finds it. 
Hence his preoccupation with art and music; hence the 
loveliness of such an essay as Music at Night. But though 
he is sensitive to value and pays tribute to it in his works, 
to goodness in his didactic essays and to beauty in his 
poems and art criticism, it would be absurd to say that 
Huxley is a very vital man, taking the word ‘vital’ in its 
strict and literal sense to imply rich and abounding 
life. On the contrary he is a man who deliberately 
chooses to live a quiet and secluded life. He does 
not even inhabit his own country; he withdraws himself 
to the Continent. He takes no part in public affairs, and 
seems far too impatient of the follies and stupidities of 
his fellows to be able to co-operate with them. He is 
physically far from robust, is not given to playing games 
and by his own admission abhors the pursuits of 
‘hearties’. No, Huxley is not a supremely vital man. 

• 

Romantic Admiration of Life. Hence, perhaps, his ro- 
mantic admiration for vitality. Just as at the end of the 
last century physically weak men like Henley and 
Stevenson, living at the close of an era of prolonged 
peace, indulged in a romantic admiration for violent 
action — listen for example to that fool Ruskin telling us 

87 



/. Value in the Modern World 

in The Crown of Wild Olive that ‘war is the foundation of 
all the high virtues and faculties of man’ — so Huxley, it 
may be, delights to laud the vitality which he is mor- 
bidly conscious of not possessing. 

Judged by his own standard of vitality as the sole and 
exclusive criterion of value, Huxley is, I fear, a very 
worthless person. He does not employ his physical 
faculties at full stretch; he does not live the life of the 
passions and the senses; his actions are not vigorous or 
robust. He is not close to the heart of nature, nor does he 
rub shoulders with the world, ‘assimilating it through all 
the channels of sense and desire, thought and feeling 
which nature has provided for the purpose’. I doubt 
even whether he makes hearty meals. Compared, for 
example, with Adolf Hitler, Falstaff, Torquemada, 
Cobbett, or even Casanova is he very little alive. And 
yet, I maintain, that he is a man of very great value 
indeed. And the measure of his value is the measure of 
his error. This romantic admiration of life as such is, as 
I have already pointed out, palpable nonsense. Much 
life is horrible and ought not to be at all. Life produced 
the Inquisition, the lynching of negroes and the Slave 
Trade; it proliferates into cancers; Goering is excessively 
alive. ... 

As a child my aesthetic taste was execrable; moreover, 
it remained execrable until an unusually late period. 
But, bad as it was, it was very vivid, particularly so in 
music. I hummed, sang and whistled the popular songs 
I of the day with gusto, dissolved into delicious woefulness 
over sentimental ballads, and melted to the erotic 

88 



The Snobbery of Anti-Culture 

rhyAms of the Viennese Waltzes to which young men’s 
fancies then turned. The Chocolate Soldier Waltz 
seemed to me the high-water mark of musical composi- 
tion, and I considered a short popular piece called Tn 
the Shadows’ one of the prettiest things ever written. 
Looking back I have no doubt at all about the degree of 
my liking for these things. I absorbed them voraciously, 
and obtained the very greatest pleasure from their 
assimilation. As with music, so with food. There were 
certain simple comestibles to which as a child I weis 
particularly partial, treacle, for instance, or syrup of figs, 
from which I should now recoil with horror; while 
bread and dripping, which I still view with respect, 
seemed to me at the time almost divine in its flavour. 

To say that these tastes of mine were not vital, not 
fully alive, is nonsense. To say that they were good is 
equally nonsense. Good, therefore, is not to be equated 
with vital. Why then should the attempt, in spite of all 
the evidence to the contrary, to equate them be made? 
And why in particular should it be made with such tire- 
some frequency by this generation? Why, in fact, the 
cult of deliberate ‘lowbrowism’ which Huxley so rightly 
ridicules, yet which his refusal to admit absolute values 
implicitly endorses? 

The Snobbery of Anti-Culture. As to the fact, there can, I 
think, be no reasonable doubt. Whereas in the Victorian 
age a taste for the highest and best was considered so 
important that people, who were unable to distinguish 
between Mendelssohn tfnd Beethoven, talked learnedly 

89 



I. Value in the Modem World 

of diminished sevenths and rapturously of the genius of 
the great composers, while ladies who were unable to 
understand half a dozen sentences of One of Our Con- 
querors were eager to include in their small talk an ad- 
vance announcement of Mr. Meredith’s new novel, 
to-day the avowal of a taste for Beethoven is considered 
embarrassing, for Meredith absurd, while cultivated and 
intelligent persons, concealing their knowledge of tho' 
arts, talk learnedly about the averages of cricket pro- 
fessionals and the predilections of prizefighters. The 
tides of culture snobbery have set in the opposite direc- 
tion, and while few moderns would be willing to confess 
to a taste for Bach and Wordsworth, they would wil- 
lingly avow their admiration for Razde and Jack Hyl- 
ton’s band. 

Nothing is more remarkable in this connection than 
the volte-face which in the space of a few years can be seen 
to occur in the taste of contemporary young women. 
Educated at their girls’ schools to love the highest when 
they see it, they leave at the age of seventeen or eighteen 
with tastes of great elevation and refinement. They read 
Keats and Shakespeare, put prints of Botticelli and 
Michelangelo on the walls of their rooms, and clamour 
to be taken to hear Schnabel, compared with whose 
rendering of Beethoven that of no other pianist is, they 
aver, endurable. Within a couple of years the contem- 
porary young woman, left to her own devices, has dis- 
carded her school culture with as little compunction as 
she discards her school chapel and her school clothes. 
Jazz instead of music, Edgar Wallace instead of litera- 


90 



Glance at the Modern Scene 


ture and Greta Garbo registering amorous ecstasy on 
the ‘talkies’ replace those earlier schoolgirl loves, Chopin 
and Puccini, Browning and Rossetti, Francis Thompson 
and Ruskin and Stevenson. Piano playing is dropped, 
Michelangelo and Botticelli disappear from the walls, 
and a detective story or a ‘blood’ by Sapper or Wren 
does duty for reading. If by any chance the young 
woman’s development is sufficiently retarded to enable 
her to retain her taste for great literature and high 
thoughts, she is careful to let no word which might 
betray her secret indulgences pass her lips. 

Glance at the Modern Scene. The phenomenon of school- 
girls jettisoning their gods is only one expression of a 
deliberate cult of childishness in thought and expres- 
sion, in music, morals and art. We talk in words of one 
syllable from a deliberately limited vocabulary, pro- 
duce deliberately neo-primitive pictures and statues, 
croon nigger songs without tune or sense, as we gendy 
direct one another to and fro in dances which, needing 
neither skill nor vitality, are equally lacking in gusto and 
in grace. We tear over the earth’s surface along roads of 
brick-box straightness, past houses of brick-box dimen- 
sions, in order to arrive in record time at places in which 
we shall do nothing at all. Our novejs are concerned 
with the activities, physiological and psychological, of 
those parts of our organism which we share with ani- 
mals, children and savages, and devote the often not 
inconsiderable intelligences of their authors to repre- 
senting human beings as creatures devoid of intelli- 


91 



/. Value in the Modern World 

gence, whose actions are motivated from the solar plexus 
rather than from the brain. 

. I have known for years the son of one of the leading 
literary figures of the Edwardian literary world. He was 
brought up in an atmosphere impregnated with cul- 
ture. At his earliest family meals he met its living ex- 
ponents. The talk was all of Meredith and Hardy, of 
Wilde, Patmore and Pater, of Francis Thompson and of 
that blaspheming poet James Thomson^ B.V. Arrived 
at man’s estate my friend ruthlessly dis( arded culture 
and started to play ball games. With the taste of the 
artist he appraises tennis shots and cricket strokes; he 
applauds bruisers with the fervour of the poet; with the 
patience of the mathematician he memorizes cricket 
averages, and with all the force of his being he clamor- 
ously backs the Arsenal. He is a symptom, an extreme 
symptom, of the ‘lowbrowism’ of the age, an age which, 
inheriting Chartres Cathedral, asserts itself by con- 
fronting it with aeroplane sheds. 

To me there is something essentially repulsive in a 
comparatively mature civilization playing with the toys 
of immaturity, when it knows better; there is something 
horrible in the lacklustre enjoyments of the modern 
‘good time’, the negroid music, the gloomy dances, the 
deliberately stupid conversation, the shame of intelli- 
gence. Adult minds cannot think chddishly and also 
think spontaneously; grown men cannot pursue the 
tastes of schoolboys with schoolboys’ abandon. 

Am I here merely voicing a personal dislike, or has my 
repulsion some objective basis in an intrinsic repulsive- 


92 



Glance at the Modem Scene 


ness in that which provokes it? Is my regret for the cul- 
ture of the ptist merely a middle-aged man’s nostalgia 
for his own childhood, or is there really cause for dis- 
quietude in the ‘lowbrowism’ of the age? In a word, do 
beauty and truth really matter, or is it just a private 
whim of my own to think that they do? These questions 
which raise an old controversy in a new form demand 
a chapter to themselves. 


93 



Chapter III 

Defence of Value — II. Beauty 

★ 

The 'Symposium'. Plato’s Symposium contains a cele- 
brated account of the journey of the soul in search of 
beauty. Beauty, which Plato conceives as an immaterial 
Form, is apprehended after a process of aesthetic devel- 
opment, which, beginning with the appreciation of the 
beauty of single beautiful objects and persons, comes to 
recognize the common quality of beauty which dis- 
tinguishes them as members of a class and so to appre- 
ciate classes of beautiful objects and persons, proceeds to 
the appreciation of abstract beauty in laws and morals, 
then to the sciences and a realization of the beauty of 
Science, and so at last reaches a knowledge of the Form 
itself.* 

LI t is interesting to notice that the kind of "knowledge 
which we call scientific immediately precedes the know- 
ledge of beauty. It is the scientist who occupies the stage 
immediately below that of the artist, the artist, that is, 
conceived not as executant but as seer.jThe statement, 
which sounds a little startling to modern ears — we know 
* Plato. )^npoum, 210, 21 1. 

94 



The Training of the Mind to know Beauty 

our scientists, and, whatever they do or do not do, they 
do not contemplate the Form of Beauty, not, at least, 
obtrusively — ^is nu'tigated by the consideration that for 
Plato scientific knowledge meant pre-eminently mathe- 
matical knowledge. The mathematician, then, is the 
person whose insight seemed to Plato most closely to 
approximate to that of the seer. 

The Training of the Mind to know Beauty. A hint dropped 
in the Republic may help to throw light on Plato’s mean- 
ing. We are here told that the proper education of the 
mind for a knowledge of the Forms is a training in the 
exact sciences of measuring, weighing and counting, 
namely, the Theories of Number, Geometry, Stereo- 
metry and Astronomy.i The mind, in other words, is to 
be trained in precision; it must observe accurately and 
reason correctly. The apprehension of the Form is, it 
seems, not lightly to be achieved, nor, indeed, is it pos- 
sible except to minds which have been prepared by hard 
and continuous exercise in abstract intellectual pur- 
suits. Cli ve Bell, in his b ook Art, endorses this hint of 
Plato’s as to the affinity between beauty and mathe- 
matics. The di stinguishing c haracter istic of great-art, 
he points ©ut, is that in the inoment of contemplation, 
we are completely shut ofiL from the w orld of human 
intereste^^Our anticipations and rnemories are arrested;, 
we are lifted above the stream of life. The pure mathe- 
matician rapt in his studies knows a state of mind whkh 
I take to be similar, if not identical. He feels an eipotion 

> Plato. Republic, 525-8. 


95 



II. Beauty 

for his speculations which arises from no perceived 
relation between them and the Uves of men, but springs, 
inhuman or superhuman, from the heart of an abstract 
science. I sometimes wonder whether the appreciators 
of art and of mathematical solutions are not even more 
closely allied. Before we feel an cesthetic emotion for a 
combination of forms, do we not perceive intellectually 
the rightness and necessity of the combination?’ 

To return to Plato. The apprehension of the Form it- 
self is, in the Symposium, described in the language of a 
mystical vision; the Form will, we are told, ‘shine forth’. 
But the vision, though conditioned by, is logically di- 
vorced from the strictly intellectual process which leads 
up to it. 

The hint of the Symposium is confirmed by the testi- 
mony of subsequent writers. That meditation and con- 
templation are the necessary preliminaries to the mysti- 
cal vision, and that meditation and contemplation in- 
volve not merely or always a purely receptive state of 
intellectual passivity, there is ample evidence in the 
literature of mysticism. Some writers go further and in- 
sist upon the need for hard mental discipline and train- 
ing. 

. « 

Th^iMp-efike- Mind from Knowledge to Vision. There also 
seems to be good evidence for the abruptness of the tran- 
sition from one level of apprehension to another. 
Between the worlds of becoming and of being there was 
fixed for Plato a definite gulf, a gulf which the mind 
must leap to obtain its vision of Beauty. There is a leap 

96 



The Need for Practice 

too from any one stage of the leading-up process to the 
next, from the apprehension of a thing as an object 
useful or useless, rare or worthless, to the apprehension 
of it as what Clive Bell calls significant form, that is, as 
‘a combination of lines and colours . . . that moves us 
aesthetically’. 

Now this leaping, this mental jump, is, it seems to me, 
a plain fact of aesthetic experience. You look at a tree on 
many occasions and notice it only as possible timber, or 
as an elm, or as dangerous; or you do not notice it at all. 
Then com es a day when you suddenly notice tha t it is 
beautifuk And it isjl^e same with a picture;, its ticauty 
suddenly strikes ors 

Consider in this connection one’s appreciation of the 
typical Dutch picture. Apparently a coloured photo- 
graph of a simple scene, in which every detail is accur- 
ately reproduced — it is one of the most difficult exer- 
cises I know to'try to state in what respect a Vermeer 
differs from a coloured photograph — the picture is in- 
vested with a significance which the scene itself lacks. 
Or lacks for most people! For Vermeer, I suppose, dif- 
fers from most people in being able to see in the scene 
the significance which we cannot observe save in the 
picture. \Vhat he has done is to drag significance from 
the irrelevant setting in which it lurked, and tlifow it in- 
to high relief. He does not create beauty; he is the mid- 
wife who brings to birth the beauty that is latent in 
things. 

The Need for Practice. The point, however, which I 

“ 97 



11. Beauty 

wish chiefly to bring out in Plato’s account is the insis- 
tence upon the need for praclice^t is practice which, at 
every stage of the process, paves the way for the next, 
preparing the mind for the jumps which it must make, 
if its vision of the universe is to be so deepened and en- 
larged that it may discern beautyS^nd practice has this 
effect partly because the objects "apprehended at each 
stage possess the property of directing the mind’s atten- 
tion to the next. Not only is it the function of education 
to wheel the soul ‘round from the perishing world’ to 
‘the contemplation of the real world and the brightest 
part thereof’,' \)ut the visible world itself possesses the 
power of ‘turning the eye of the soul’ towards the in- 
telligibly 

The process of jumping by the mind from one level 
of apprehension to another, which at first sight seems 
sufficiently mysterious when it occurs in the aesthetic 
realm, is accepted without comment in the physical. I 
say ‘the mind’, although, when it is the physical organ- 
ism that learns a new trick, the credit for it should 
perhaps go to the body that performs it. Every fresh 
acquisition of bodily skill and accomplishment is 
achieved as the result of hard and unremitting effort. 
It is the fruit of continual practice which for long seems 
to bring no improvement. To remember how we learned 
to ride a bicycle, or to ‘do’ an outside edge, is to remem- 
ber periods of seemingly hopeless endeavopr, in which 
only the desire to perform the apparent miracle which 
others wrought with such assurance, kept us going. And 

* Plato. Republic, vii, 518. 


98 



The Level of Insight not Retained 

the acquisition, when it was made, came all at once; one 
was making — ^was one not? — those same ineffective 
efforts which one had always made, when suddenly to 
one’s immense surprise they succeeded. They suc- 
ceeded, and one ‘did it’. And ‘did it’, whatever ‘it’ was, 
from the first almost perfectly^he body, in fact — or was 
it the mind? — had made a jump to a new level of ac- 
complishment, achieving a balance or a movement 
which was previously utterly beyond its compass) 


The Level of Insight not Retained. And as with the mind, 
so too with the body, the jump, although the result of 
hard practice and continuous effort, is itself effortless. 
But, unlike the mind, the body, having made its 
achievement, retains it. One cannot forget to swim, 
although one can quickly lose the capacity to apprehend 
beauty. 

The difference is as significant as it is lamentable. It is 
significant in its bearing upon the questions with which 
thelastchapterconcluded. What, I asked, is the reason for 
the deliberate contempt of beauty, for the deliberate 
distrust of intelligence, which is so characteristic of our 
age? And the answer that immediately suggests itself is 
the ease, the distressing ease with which ‘taste’ can be 
lostc^^od taste, which is a part of what I mean by ‘the 
capacity to apprehend beauty’, is, it is obvious, not 
instinctive in our species; it is something acquirer^ 
Children’s taste, in literature crude, is in music exe- 
crable. Children do not, except when admonished there- 
to by adults, respond to nature, appreciate sonnets, or 


99 



11. Beauty 

love the highest when they see it. Broadly speaking, it i s 
not until pu^berty is reached that ihe zestHeSc sense can 
'Be said to exist.Tiiven then it must be trained, practised 
and discij^ned,^^ is hot to run riot in the lush jungle 
of the ‘talldes’^ the ‘crooners’ and the best sellers which 
are the distinctive contribution of our age to art. 

Built up with difficulty, maintained by constant exer- 
cise, good taste is lost with fatal facility. When we are 
ill, in pain, or marooned on desert islands, it is our 
tastes for Bach and Shakespeare which are the first to 
fall away from us. It is not true that man in affliction 
can listen to music, or that man in the wilderness can 
read poetry. 

{.The Function of Environmeni)The activity of the aesthetic 
sense, in apprehending and appreciating beauty, can, it is 
obvious, only function where there are peace of mind 
and freedom from bodily hardship. It also requires an 
appropriate environment. It seems to me that Plato’s 
insistence on this point in the early books of the Republic 
has never been treated with the respect it deserves. That 
the body can only function properly, can only grow to 
its full stature in an environment of light, space and air, 
suitably clad, adequately and appropriately fed, that the 
body, in fact, reflects its environment is accepted, and 
we feel no surprise when we learn that the infant mor- 
tality rate in a South Wales colliery district should be 
more than a third higher than it is in Bournemouth or 
Hampstead, and nearly a tenth higher than it was be- 
fore the slump. But that what is true of the body should 


too 



The Function of Environment 

be true also of the mind, spirit, soul, call it what you 
will: that the soul too will reflect its environment, we 
seem not to realize. At any rate the realization, if it 
exists, does not affect o\ir practice. 

Yet it is precisely this upon which Plato insists, insists 
so strongly that he makes it the keystone of his educa- 
tional system. Bring up a human being in beautiful 
surroundings, accustom him to harmonious forms and 
musical sounds, to gracious manners and dignified in- 
tercourse, and his soul will become harmonious, grace- 
ful, beautiful. He will have, in a word, good taste. 
Bring him up in a mean environment of factories, slums 
or villas, accustom him to the sound of loud voices, to 
the sight of ugly forms, and teach him to equate beauty 
with vulgar and ostentatious ornamentation, and his 
soul will be mean, vulgar and trivial. He will have, in a 
word, bad taste. 

This is no place to enlarge upon the spate of ugliness 
and vulgarity, the acres of mean streets and undis- 
tinguished houses, with which unrestricted private 
enterprise, driven by the mania for quick profits covered 
England in the last century. We can see them for our- 
selves by merely driving in any direction from the centre 
of London* to its outskirts. The predominant note is not 
even hideousness, but a monotonous dreariness of bricks 
and mortar unparalleled, one believes and hopes, in the 
universe. And it stretches for miles and miles and miles 
of desolation, not a wen, as Cobbett in his day called it, 
but a vast malignant growth. What a monument to 
nineteenth-century civilization it is, this teeming desert 


lOI 



11. Beauty 

of mean houses, ugly shops, ugly houses and mean shops 
repeating themselves endlessly from Woolwich to Wim- 
bledon, from Purley to Highgate, and from Acton to 
Wood Green. Is it any wonder that those brought up 
amid such surroundings should reflect in their tastes 
and pursuits the environment which has stamped their 
souls, that they should like trivial books, empty plays 
and vulgar films, and that they should be so little able 
to come to terms with nature that their reaction to 
natural beauty, when they do come into contact with it, 
should be to fence and to enclose it, to deluge it with 
litter, to uproot its flowers and carve its trees, spoiling 
and ravishing it, until they have effectively destroyed 
the beauty they could not tolerate? 

Smellj^ JVoises and Islands of Escape. Or consider the 
noises of our civilization! We arc apt to look back upon 
the men and women of the Middle Ages with pitying 
contempt because of their lack of drains. And no doubt 
their streets and persons smelled very badly. The grand 
ladies of Elizabeth’s time in particular, swathed in 
voluminous wrapping.s, lacking cotton underclothes, 
and sewn up in wool which they changed only at rare 
intervals, must have outrageously offended the environ- 
ing air. We have spared our noses at the expense of our 
ears. The world may not smell to-day as it did four 
hundred years ago, but never assuredly was it so noisy. 
Every fresh labour-saving device, every new creation- 
ssEving amusement lets loose a fresh flood of ugly sound 
upon our ears; and, because we make no instinctive de- 


102 



Smells, Noises and Islands of Escape 

mand for beauty in our environment, because we have 
grown insensitive to its lack, because, in a word, our 
ears are attuned to ugliness, nobody seems very much 
to mind. 

I am sometimes reproached for spending my holidays 
in primitive places; often on islands without civilized 
hotels or organized amusements, without drains or 
electric light, with muddy paths for their only roads, 
from the refuse piled along the sides of which every 
shower of rain brings out a varied assortment of steamy 
smells. Why, I am asked, do I go so far to seek such un- 
savoury places? There is a number of answers to this 
question, most of which are not relevant to my present 
theme; as, for example, that I share Huxley’s horror of 
a ‘good time’, that I regard the amusements and enter- 
tainments of the ordinary ‘resort’ as the most formid- 
able contrivance for inducing mass boredom which the 
misplaced ingenuity of mankind has devised, and that 
since I find work in the shape of reading and writing 
interspersed with daydreaming by streams, in woods or 
on high cliffs overlooking the sea, the only form of occu- 
pation which I can tolerate in any but the very smallest 
doses, I must go somewhere where I can read, write and 
daydream’ undisturbed. And in the places where civil- 
ized men and women deliberately amuse themselves, 
even more than in the places where they work, these 
things are impossible. 

v But the immediately relevant answer is that on islands 
one is reasonably assured of quiet. On those remote frag- 
ments of land which lie off the coasts of Cornwall and 



II. Beaiitj 

Brittany I am secure from motors, I am reasonably 
likely to be undisturbed by gramophones, and the wire- 
less has only just begun to penctrate^True, I must read 
at night by candle light, but therf my reading in the 
morning is not disturbed by a motor or a dynamo 
making electric light for me to sec by at night. As th^re 
are no roads, I am spared electric drills, and since the 
population consists of peasants and fishermen, nobody 
at present thinks it worth while to croon to them the 
rhythmic banalities of negroid music. These primitive 
and unplcasing sounds are considered suitable for the 
delectation only of civilized persons. 

‘ Resorts. Let us suppose that I am so ill advised as to 
leave my island, and endeavour to divert myself at some 
place where the civilized gather. Immediately I am ex- 
posed to a more varied cacophony of ugly sounds than 
has hitherto assaulted the eardrums of any race of 
beings. There are, first, the sounds of labour-saving 
devices; motor cars and motor horns, vacuum cleaners 
and electric drills, electric motors and dynamos for 
making light. In almost every continental resort each 
hotel has its own separate plant for manufacturing light. 
Early in the morning the monotonous beat of the motor 
or the whirr of the dynamo makes itself heard. Relent- 
lessly it continues hour after hour, until nerves are 
frayed, good temper gone, and brains so dissipated that 
hours of tranquillity' arc required for their recall. 
Meanwhile men saw, hammer, knock and nail; carpets 
are beaten, furniture repaired, awnings put up or tnken 



Musical Taste 

down. Worse, much worse, are the sounds of pleasure; 
of radio and gramophone and Wurlitzer organ. From 
the middle of the day onwards the sounds of mechanical 
music makers begin to pervade the atmosphere. By 
nightfall the outraged air is one vast vibration of caco- 
phonous crooning. Silence, peace and tranquillity, 
these things have gone from the civilized world no less 
than the solitude in which they may be enjoyed; gone 
so completely, that many are unaware that they ever 
existed. Can we suppose that a soul brought up in such 
an environment will not take colour from its surround- 
ings, colour of sound as well as of sight, and become in- 
sensitive and coarse in proportion as its channels, the 
senses, convey to it for its sustenance not only ugly 
sights but also ugly noises? Souls that do not reflect beauty 
will not be moved to create it or to demand it; should it 
be presented to them, they will not notice that it is there. 

Musical Taste. In the Elizabethan and Jacobean ages 
England produced a school of musicians. Purcell and 
Byrd, Locke, Gibbons and Lawes are, indeed, among the 
great musicians of the world. Their music is exceedingly 
difficult, so difficult that it is only when we moderns 
have been’ long coached by the careful performances of 
the Dolmetsch family that our ears are opened and we 
can hear. It is also difficult to play. Yet, we are assured, 
the guests at an average Jacobean party played it as a 
normal part of their after-dinner entertainment. 1 1 was as 
natural for them to play good music for themselves as it is 
for us to 1 isten to bad music brayed for us by a gramophone. 

105 



//. Beauty 

And fundamentally it is our environment that has 
disabled us from appreciating the good. In the nine- 
teenth century, when musical appreciation in England 
sank to its lowest ebb, men could not listen even to 
Bach. It was more than an organist’s place was worth to 
announce a Bach prelude or fugue for his voluntary; if 
he introduced Bach’s music, it had to be done surrepti- 
tiously. To-day, thanks to the B.B.C. and Sir Henry 
Wood, our taste has improved, and although Wagner 
still draws his now rather elderly hundreds to the 
Queen’s Hall, the Bach nights arc the most popular at 
the proms. Good taste then is, at least in part, born of 
environment . ^hange t}ie environme nt, as war changes 
it or revolution, change it by increasingly applying 
science to productive processes — the change from the 
art and taste of the late eighteenth to those of the mid- 
nineteenth century seems to have been mainly due to 
the changes in modes of production introduced by the 
Industrial Revolution — and, as the Russian e.xperiment 
has shown, you can produce incalculable effects upon 
the taste of those who live in it, so that, while one gener- 
ation will love and demand beauty, another can be 
happy only with ornament. is only precariously that 
the mind of man maintains itself at the level at which 
it is capable of aesthetic appreciation; disturb the en- 
vironment, and it can slip back to a lower rung of the 
ladder of taste with a dismaying ease^ 

The Conditions for the Production of Great Art. If a jump 
is involved in the appreciation of beauty, it is involved 

io6 



The Conditions for the Production of Great Art 

no less in its creation, or rather, as I should prefer to say, 
in its discovery*. In art, as in science, the environment 
most favourable for the production of work of the high- 
est order is that of the school, the workshop, the labora- 
tory, the studio or the coterie. It is, in a word, a com- 
munity of fellow craftsmen. Where many are doing 
good work, there will always be a chance of some doing 
great work. The Brandenburg Concertos would not 
have been written, had there been no Bach to write 
them; but equally they would not have been written, 
had not a long line of past musicians bequeathed Bach 
a tradition, and a school of contemporary musicians 
maintained for him an environment of high general out- 
put giving him at once a stimulus, a standard and an at- 
mosphere. Similarly, the quantum theory would not 
have been announced to the world, unless Planck had 
made his experiments on the heating of black bodies; 
but Planck would never have made his experiments, 
would never, indeed, have had his attention drawn to 
the possibilities of black bodies at all, if it had not been 
for the high standard of attainment of the German 
school of physicists among whom he lived, with whom 
he worked, from whom, it might almost be said, he 
derived hfe being V Part ly, no doubt, the reason for this 
excellence of achievement lies in the value to the crea- 
tive worker of continuous and informed criticism. Con- 
stant interchange of ideas and reciprocal criticism of 
results not only ensure the maintenance of a reasonably 

* .Sec Chapter VIII, especially pages 229, 230, 233 for a defence 
of this expression. 


107 



II. Beauty 

high level of output; they prevent the excesses into 
which the creative artist working in solitude and thrown 
helpless upon his own taste and judgment is only too 
liable to fall. More important perhaps than this negative 
check, is the fact that a community or school of com- 
petent men maintaining a high general standard of 
work provides a propitious environment for that jump- 
ing of the spirit to new levels of^nscious awareness 
which is the occasion of great art,.-J 

|I'hc distinctive quality of the great artist is his capa- 
city for becoming aware for the first tirpe of something 
that has hitherto been overlooked^This quality, too, I 
would submit,* is the outstanding characteristic of the 
great philosopher, the great scientist and the great 
mathematician. Whatever we term this ‘something’ — 
significant relations of form and colour, significant 
combinations of sound in music or of symbols in 
mathematics, the sudden synthesis of hitherto unco- 
ordinated ideas in science or philosophy — its discern- 
ment on the part of the creative artist involves and is 
conditioned Jby a jump to a new level of conscious ap- 
prehension^I say ‘creative’, and yet the activity involved 
is more properly one of discovering than of creating It 
is analogous to the activity of a map reader who by vir- 
tue of a superior clarity of vision discerns, let us say, a 
track marked on an old map which has hitherto escaped 
notice. 

’ I have tried to ^ive reasons for this view in Philosophical 
Aspects oj Modern Science, Chapters X and XI. (Allen and 
Unwin.) 

io8 



The ^Jump’ a Psychological Experience 

The 'Jump' a Psychological Experience. This activity of 
‘jumping’ cn the part of the mind or, rather, the char- 
acter of the universe to which it points, namely, that its 
contents are revealed as a hierarchy of levels or orders 
apprehended by different levels of conscious awareness, 
demands, I think, metaphysical interpretation. This I 
have attempted elsewhere.' Here, since psychological 
facts are the only kind of facts of which Huxley is pre- 
pared to take account^ I must content myself with point* 
ing out that the ‘jumping on the part of the aesthetic and 
intellectual consciousness is a recognizable fact of our 
psychological experience. Granted that it is, I proceed 
to ask whether it does not involve just that conception 
of value and of orders of value in the universe which 
Huxley, in his capacity of representative of modern 
thought, denies^V 

If the answer be simply that there is no such ‘jurhp’, 
or, if the ‘jump’ be admitted, that it points to nothing of 
the kind, I do not see how the denial can be met. If a 
man says there is no such thing as toothache, I do not 
see how I can prove to him that there is. I can assure 
him that I have it, but I cannot communicate my 
assurance to him. Psychotegieai facts, as Huxley himself 
when he writes of the mystics points out, are strictly 
eommunicable. At this point, then, we reach the limits 
of argument. But only at this point. It is only if we insist 
on remaining within the sphere of strictly personal ex- 
perience, that we must admit to having reached an 

• See my Matter, Life and Value, Chapters VI, VIII, and IX. 
(Oxford University Press.) 


109 



II. Beauty 

impasse. But there are other spheres; that of philosophy 
for instance. For, if Huxley does deny the ‘jump’, or, 
while admitting it, denies that it points to value in the 
universe, we arc entitled to probe deeper and to enquire 
why he denies it. He does not, I understand, deny the 
psychological fact which is the experience of apprehend- 
ing the toothache. Why, then, does he deny the experi- 
ence which is the apprehension of a value? 

Transition to Philosophy. The answer is, I think, be- 
cause of his general philosophical position, a position 
which, while permitting him to concede that there are 
teeth which do in their own right ache, requires him to ' 
deny that there are pictures which are in their own right| 
beautiful and sounds which arc in their own right har-‘ 
monious. He may not call this position of his philo- 
sophical. In fact, it is, as we shall see, part of his philo- 
sophy to deny that a philosophical position can be any- 
thing more than the rationalization of a set of subjective 
preferences and prejudices, to deny, in fact, that philo- 
sophy can be fruitful Nevertheless he has a philosophical 
position from which his repudiation of absolute values 
necessarily follows., > 

W’c must, then, proceed to consider what this position 
is. Is it, we shall further want to know, plausible? Is it 
consistent? Is it exposed to obvious difficulties? Does it 
square with known facts? These are questions which 
may be legitimately asked of any philosophy. If we see 
reason to answer them in the negative, then the con- 
sequences which follow on the assumption that the posi- 


iio 



Author's Programme 

tion is sound, and only on that assumption, can be set 
aside. One of these consequences is the denial of the 
objecdve reality of value. Here, then, is a legitimate 
field for discussion; here is a course upon which those 
who wish to challenge the Huxleyan repudiation, which 
is also the characteristically modern repudiation, of 
value, may profitably embark. • 

^ut the task is a formidable one. We are, we shall find, 
committed to a criticism of a whole philosophy of life. 
It is a philosophy which, in addition to denying the 
absolute reality of value, denies also the absolute com- 
petence of human reason jin the sphere of thought it 
denies the capacity of the human reason to reach truth, 
and consequently discards philosophy in favour of 
science; in that of practice it denies the right or the 
ability of reason to lay down rules of conduct, and con- 
sequently discards principles in favour of experiment. 

Author’s Programme. Now this philosophy receives, as 
I have already hinted, its most characteristically mod- 
ern expression in the writings of Aldous Huxley. We are 
committed, then, to a critical examination of the 
characteristic philosophy of Huxley, to a defence of 
reason in jthcory and practice, and to a defence of 
philosophy as a mode of reaching truth. While- we may 
hope to soften the austerity of our undertaking' by an 
occasional glance at some of the consequences, the all 
too common consequences which follow the contem- 
porary disparagement of reason, our main task as 

* As in the first chapter. 


Ill 



IL Beauty 

avowed defenders of value, reason and philosophy, will 
be the carrying out of the formidable philosophical pro- 
gramme outlined. Nor will its completion see the end 
of our defence. For, sensitive to the charge of being 
merely critical, I propose to add two chapters which will 
seek to perform the office of construction by outlining 
in a few pages, and with particular reference to the 
questions raised in the preceding chapter, the meta- 
physical view which I have endeavoured to set out at 
length elsewhere. 

These constructive suggestions may at the same time 
be considered in the light of a continuation at a more 
fundamental level of my defence of reason and of 
philosophy. In working them out I shall be led to indi- 
cate what is, in my view, the ultimate status of value in 
the universe, and the ultimate raison d’itre of those 
' human activities, art and mysticism, which chiefly seek 
to trap and embody it. This indication will be offered in 
lieu of that formal defence of value which in the present 
chapter, as I am only too conscious, I may seem to have 
shirked. 


112 



Chapter IV 

Defence of Value — III. Aldous Huxley and 
the Dowagers 

★ 

Aldous Huxley has written a series of admirable 
essays’ which, ostensibly concerned with Pascal, are in 
effect a disquisition on philosophy. Huxley avows the 
fact. ‘Pascal is really only an excuse and a convenience,* 
he writes. ‘If I choose to write about him, it is because 
he raises, either by implication in his life, or explicitly 
in his writings, practically all the major problems of 
philosophy and conduct.’ ‘In the margin of’ what he 
calls Pascal’s ‘guide book’, Huxley has ‘pencilled a few 
reflections. This essay’, he continues, ‘is made up of 
them. Pciscal is only incidentally its subject.’ And the 
disquisition upon philosophy turns out upon examina- 
tion to be less a disquisition than an assault, an assault 
of which object is to show that philosophy, as op- 
posed to science and, presumably, to common sense, is 
and must of necessity be moonshine. The word is not 
Huxley’s — he is indeed exquisitely polite to philosophy 
— but I want to convey briefly the upshot of his essay, 

’ Published in the volume of collected essays entitled Do What 
You Will. 

II3 


H 



III. Aldous Huxley and the Dowagers 

and he will forgive a philosopher for using bluntly the 
words that he has minced. 

Huxley’s Criticism of Philosophy. The assault, directed 
against philosophy as a whole, has for its special objec- 
tive rationalistic philosophy, that is to say, metaphysical 
systems which claim to be able to discover the funda- 
mental nature of the universe by sheer process of logical 
reasoning. And what Huxley has to say about them is 
something like this. 

If you want to know what the universe is like, you 
must go and see; in other words, you must follow the 
methods of science. Observe facts, correlate them, state 
your conclusions in the form of scientific laws, and your 
laws will apply to something. They will give you, that is 
to say, information about a world external to yourself; 
they are, to drop into philosophical jargon, objectively 
valid. 

Directly, however, you begin to speculate about the 
facts that science catalogues, directly you begin to fol- 
low out their implications, to reason at large about 
them, to make inferences from facts about a special 
department of the universe to the universe as a whole, 
to infer, for example, what sort of universe it inust be in 
order that the facts in question may occur in it, directly, 
in a word, you assume the function of the philosopher, 
'then your results are no longer objectively valid; they 
ai:e merely rationalizations of your subjective needs and 
wishes. They cease to apply to any world outside your- 
self; they merely reflect yourself. What the philosopher 



Huxley’s Criticism of Philosophy 

does, in fact, is not to present us with a picture of the 
universe, but merely to project the creations of his own 
intellectual imagination upon its empty canvas.' Having 
projected them, he discovers with a naive surprise-what 
he has projected, and announces a metaphysical sys- 
tem. The philosopher, in short, is one who fares through 
the uttermost confines of the universe to find himself. 

Thus Descartes is criticized because being a rational- 
ist ‘he believed in the reality of his abstractions. Invent- 
ing fictions, he imagined that he was revealing the 
truth’. Nor is it only the rationahsts who are blamed; 
all philosophers who, racking their brains over the 
anomalies of the universe, evolve systems which purport 
to reconcile them, are censurable — censurable, that is to 
say, if they regard their fictions as having some preten- 
sions to truth. And what philosopher does not? Cer- 
tainly not Pascal. Selecting from the chaotic mass of 
concrete experience certain aspects which appeared to 
him to be interesting, the rest he magnificently ignores. 
The interesting aspects become Body, Mind and Char- 
ity, three vicious abstractions ‘which have no existence 
outside the classifying intellect’. 

These are erected by Ptiscal into actual entities in 
whose reilUty he actually came to believe. The rest, all 

' He has for the purposes of his present argument conveniently 
forgotten that he has already warned us that ‘science’ also ‘is no 
truer than common sense or lunacy, than art or religion’. See 
quotation on p. 73. But let this pass. If you are prepared to deny 
the validity of reason, you cannot be expected to trouble your- 
self with the bugbear of consistency. See the quotation below, 
p. 1 18. 



III. Aldous Huxley and the Dowagers 

that does not fit in with the three Pascalian absolutes, is 
explained away. 

A Philosophy merely a Stale of Mind. It is a familiar com- 
plaint. The philosopher, whatever his school, constructs 
a rigid system and uses it as a Procrustean bed into which 
to fit the infinite variety of nature and experience; if 
they will not fit, so much the worse for nature and ex- 
perience. But the system has no reality outside the 
philosopher’s mind; it does not apply to anything, and 
the historic figures of Truth, Goodness and Beauty, or 
(as in Pascal) Body, Mind and Charity, with which it 
is adorned, arc lay figures. From the familiar complaint 
is drawn a familiar moral. Observe phenomena, corre- 
late them, construct formula; which describe them and 
enable you to predict others like them; follow, in short, 
the methods of science, and you may rest assured that 
your results will be true at least of something. But, as 
soon as you sit back in your chair and reflect upon the 
nature of the universe in the light of the results, your 
conclusions are of interest only to the psychologist. They 
tell us about you, not about reality. A philosophy is not 
an account of the universe; it is the symptom of a state 
of mind. Such, in brief, is Huxley’s criticism. ‘It is— it is, 
obvious — fundamental; it is not directed against this 
philosophy or that, against Pascal because he believed 
in the objects of his revelation or Descartes in the pro- 
ducts of his rationalizing; it is a criticbm of the aims and 
methods of philosophy in general, and of its claim to 
give an account of the universe in particular. It is this 

ii6 



The ‘Tu Quoque' Retort 

criticism which I propose in this chapter to try to meet. 

Like Huxley I too have the habit of pencilling reflec- 
tions in margins. Huxley’s article on Pascal provoked a 
number. This essay is made up of them. Huxley is only 
incidentally its subject. 

The ‘Tu Q^oque' Retort. The obvious retort assumes 
the form of a tu quoque. Must not Huxley himself, in 
denying the validity of systems, assert the very thing he 
denies? Are not the rationalizing methods he indicts the 
methods upon which his own indictment is based? 
Probably they are. Huxley is convinced that philo- 
sophical conclusions constructed by processes of 
reasoning on a remote basis of sense experience do not 
apply to anything. But how does he reach this con- 
clusion? Apparently by process of reasoning from sense 
experience. He is using excellent philosophical argu- 
ments in defence of a philosophical position. The fact 
that the position consists in the assertion that all philo- 
sophical positions are a reflection of the self and not a 
transcript of reality, and that the arguments which he 
uses are devoted to showing that philosophical argu- 
ments are vicious rationalizations of instinctive wishes, 
docs not *in the least detract from the philosophical 
character of his achievement. It merely stultifies it. 
Following a well-known philosophical method — it is as 
old as the Greeks, and in direct line of descent from the 
Sophists — Huxley reaches the conclusion that philo- 
sophical methods arc fallacious; the conclusions to 

which they lead do not give us truth about reality. Xl^i 

1 

"7 



III. Aldous Huxley and the Dowagers 

he should not follow them. Nevertheless he does so con- 
tinually and not only to discomfit the rationalists, for he 
has tried, he tells us, to frame a way of life and to draw 
what he calls a map of reality. But how does he know 
that it is not merely a map of his own mind? 

The point is an obvious one, yet I hesitate to press it. 
To show that a writer’s assertions are inconsistent is not 
to disprove them, and the scoring of purely logical 
points is apt to irritate the reader, particularly the Eng- 
lish reader, more than the writer against whom they are 
directed, especially if he is Huxley. For the charge of in- 
consistency is one which quite peculiarly fails to wring 
Huxley’s withers. On the contrary, he glories in it. ‘For 
me the pleasures of living and understanding have 
come to outweigh the pleasures ... of pretending to be 
consistent. . . . Therefore I indulge my inconsistencies’, 
‘investing myself at the same time with an invulner- 
able armour against critics’ — he might have added, but 
refrained. 

Forbearing to press the logical point, I cannot leave 
it without asking Huxley to draw for my benefit a dis- 
tinction between philosophy and science. 

Why is Science Immune? Science, it is clear, eScapes the 
gravamen of Huxley’s indictment. It does not, he thinks, 
like philosophy, attempt to prescribe to reality; it is con- 
tent to record it. Modestly it observes facts, and pre- 
dicts other facts not yet observed. Certainly it does; but 
is this all that it does? Certainly not! Science works up 
its observations into general formulae, reasons about 

ii8 



Why is Science Immune? 

them, and draws what purport to be universally a pplic- 
ahlp rnnrliisio ns. Biologists, for example (many of 
them), tell us that acquired characteristics cannot be 
inherited; physiologists (most of them), that an entity 
called the soul does not leave the body at death; psycho- 
logists (some of them), that mind action will ultimately 
be completely interpretable in terms of brain and nerve 
action, of which it is a determined function; bio-chem- 
ists, that there is no line of demarcation between the 
living and the non-living. These conclusions may or 
may not be true. But how are they reached? By process 
of ratiocination upon the evidence supplied by the 
senses. But, if the scientist spends, and rightly, much of 
his time in inferring the nature of what has not been 
observed on the basis of what has, if he goes further and 
generalizes about the characteristics of certain depart- 
ments of reality not completely explored and the capa- 
cities and limitations of certain entities not yet completely 
catalogued, by what right does he escape Huxley’s 
strictures? Is he not like the philosopher prescribing to 
reality in the interests of his own predilections and, 
when he goes beyond the immediate evidence of his 
senses, using his reason to invent arguments for the be- 
liefs which he instinctively wishes to hold? But, Huxley 
will say, the scientist’s conclusions can be verified, the 
philosopher’s cannot. But how if the scientist uncon- 
sciously cooks th e evidenc e which is requir ed to verify 
his concisions? I shall return to this point later. 

Now it may, of course, be the case that all our beliefs > 
are the offspring of our instincts, and that thinking is t<^ 


"9 



III. Aldous Huxley and the Dowagers 

be explained by the fact that we have an instinct, one of 
the strongest, to find reasons for what we instinetively 
wish to believe. If this is the case, if we are always con- 
strained by our dispositions and never by the evidence, 
we are none of us immune, and the scientist sins no less 
than the philosopher. But is it? I do not think that it is, 
and here I come to the main point at issue. 

The Truth of Rationalism. Huxley’s essays contain a 
criticism of two rather different philosophical positions, 
that of the rationalists and that of the mystics. Each 
purports to be a way of obtaining truth about the 
universe: Rationalism asserts that you can reach truth 
by process of correct reasoning from premises perceived 
to be self-evident; Mysticism by process of direct revela- 
tion. Huxley does not always distinguish between these 
two positions, and it is not always clear against which of 
them his criticisms are being levelled. In fact, however, 
they are sufficiently distinct, and may be opposed. Pas- 
cal, for example, as Mr. Huxley points out, denounced 
Nationalism and affirmed the validity of mystical reve- 
lation. Personally I think the opposition a false one, as I 
shall try to show, but it will be convenient to take each 
position separately and to see how far it can be defended 
against Huxley’s somewhat indiscriminate charge of 
vicious subjectivism. 

/ Rationalism, it is clear, assumes that the universe is 
at any rate in part reasonable; if it were not, reasoning 
/would not help us to understand it. Now Huxley says 
bluntly that it is not: ‘What’, he asks, ‘is the final, the 


120 



The Truth of" Rationalism 

theological reason for grass being green and sunflowers 
yellow?’ Admittedly there is none. ‘Grass’, he says, ‘is 
green because that is how we see it; in other words, it’s 
green because it is green.’ Huxley proceeds to infer that 
what is true of the greenness of grass is true of all the 
other characteristics of the universe. Things are green 
because they are; similarly they are agonizing or pleas- 
ant, holy or shameful, beautiful or ugly, because they 
are, and that is all there is to it. The universe for Huxley 
is all of a piece, and if you want to know what it is like, 
you must go and look. Inevitably, since, if the universe 
is irrational, there is no other way. All our knowledgCj^ 
in other words, comes to us through sense experience, 

and is limited by sense experience. 1 

Now this is simply not true. Some .of our knowledge 
does not come to us through sense experience. It may, 
of course, be illustrated by sense experience, and some 
sense experience may be necessary before we realize 
that we have it, but it is other than the knowledge given 
to us by our senses and outruns it. It is this knowled ge 
that we call a priori, and by it rationalists have set stoje 
— naturally, since it is only reason that can give it to us, 
and of what is reasonable that wc can have it. Mathe- 
matical arid logical knowledge are pre-eminently of this 
character. That two sides of a triangle are greater than 
the third, that two plus two make four, that the whole is 
greater than the part, that if P implies Q,, and. Qimplies 
R, then P implies R, that A must either be A or not A, 
these are general propositions which are true; and that 
they are true is known otherwise than through the senses. 



in. Aldous Huxley and the Dowagers 

Sense experience, no doubt, is necessary to draw our 
attention to them. The child plays with bricks and 
beans, t^lkes two pairs, puts them together and counts 
four. The particular truth must b& realized on a num- 
ber of occasions before the general one is grasped. But 
once this has been done, it is realized that the truth that 
two and two make four is true not only of the particular 
objects counted, but of all objects in the universe, both 
those which have been counted and those which have 
not; not only of those things which exist in the present, 
but of any things that may come to exist in the future; 
in short, of any things whatever. What is more, even if 
no objects existed, even if, that is to say, there were no 
particular things for us to experience and for it to apply 
to, the general proposition that two plus two make four 
would, it is realized, still be true and could still be known 
by mind. Thus, though sense experience may be neces- 
sary to draw our attention to the truth, the truth itself 
is seen to be independent of such experience. It is not, 
therefore, by means of sense experience that it is known. 
How then? Presumably by our reasons. The truth once 
grasped is seen to be necessary and inevitable. Our 
reasons could not conceive it otherwise; therefore it is 
so. 

That knowledge of such truths exists is obvious. The 
point is an elementary one and should not require stress- 
ing, were it not that Huxley seems to have overlooked it. 
Overlooked by Huxley, it was embraced with acclama- 
tion by the rationalists. Impressed -by the fact that there 
were some truths about the universe which were directly 


122 



Excesses of Rationalism 

apprehended by reason, and for the trustworthiness of 
which the testimony of reason was a sufficient guarantee, 
they proceeded to assume that all our knowledge was of 
the same character, that all the characteristics of the 
universe could be discovered by the same method. 

Excesses of Rationalism. Now if the universe were like a 
mathematical problem, the assumption would be justi- 
fied. Just as a mathematician sitting at his desk could, 
provided he reasoned well enough, deduce the whole of 
mathematics from a few self-evident propositions, so 
the philosopher at case in his chair could, provided he 
philosophized well enough, arrive at the complete truth 
about the universe by meditating upon the nature of his 
own experience. Inferring the nature of what is from 
the nature of what must (according to reason) be, he 
would be absolved from the necessity of checking his 
results by observation. It would be unnecessary, in other 
words, for him to go and see whether the universe which 
he had inferred was in the least like the universe that is. 
Many philosophers have in fact proceeded on these 
lines and with the distressing results which Huxley justly 
derides. Meditating in their arm-chairs they have pro- 
duced maps of the universe on which nobody else has 
been able to find his way. Inevitably, since the maps 
were maps not of the universe but of the philosophers. 
Like Huxley, these rationalist philosophers have as- 
sumed that the universe is all of a piece. Unfortunately 
the universe is not like a mathematical problem, and 
the method of Rationalism, admissible in the realm of 


123 



in. Aldous Huxley and the Dowagers 

logic and mathematics, fails completely to tell us what 
exists in the world of fact. ‘What I clearly and distinctly 
conceive is true’, said Descartes. Very likely, but it does 
not therefore exist. There is no reason whatever why a 
substance with the specific gravity of gold should be 
yellow. Hence we cannot discover the fact by reasoning; 
we must go and look — in other words, we must follow 
the method commended by Huxley. We arrive, then, at 
the conclusion that, so far as the world revealed to sense 
experience is concerned, neither Rationalism nor any 
other philosophy can tell us what it contains. If we want 
to know, we must experience it. 

Universe not all of a Piece. But it does not therefore fol- 
low that Rationalism is valueless, and it does not follow 
precisely because the universe is not all of a piece. Here- 
in lies Huxley’s mistake. Seeing that there is nothing 
reasonable about the fact that grass is green, he infers 
there is nothing reasonable about the fact that the 
whole is greater than the part. He is wrong. The truth 
of the matter is that certain regions of the universe are 
separated by real differences in kind. There are, in 
short, to put it crudely, two worlds— two at least, 
possibly more. There is, first, the world of sense experi- 
ence; this is the home of irrationality and contingency, 
and its contents can only be discovered, if at all, by 
inspection; and there is, secondly, the world of necessity, 
the home of reason, the nature of which is revealed in 
thinking to mind. The experience of our senses will no 
more provide us with information about this second 


124 



Universe not all of a Piece 

world than reason can inform us of the characteristics of 
the first. 

What are the contents of this second world? Here we 
enter the realm of controversy. Many, as I have said, 
have considered it to be all-inclusive, and proceeded to 
impugn the reality of the arbitrary, haphazard facts 
which refused to fit into it. Rejecting the view that the 
universe is reasonable throughout, we may nevertheless 
still ask whether the second world, the world of neces- 
sity, is limited by the realms of logic and mathematics. 
What of ethics and ^esthetics? At this point 1 nuist.make 
a confession, Many, perhaps mo^T'philosophers — and I 
hope that it will not set the reader against them — have 
claimed that Goodness and Beauty must, with Truth, 
be included" in the second world. Huxley, as we have 
seenj denies thTs' claim. Beauty, Goodness and Truth 
are for him fictions invented to gratify human desires. 
How arc we to make it good? 

Here arises a difficulty. That there is a distinction 
between the two worlds I affirm, and reason, I affirm 
further, can give us true information about the second. 
But how are we to draw the line between them? R eason 
alone, it is clear, can draw it. Hence reason is in the 
position ofbcing both judge and jury in her own cause. 

Assuming complete domination over the second world, 
claiming it as her own, she arrogates to herself the right 
to prescribe its boundaries. The position seems unsatis- 
factory, for reason, when pressed to show cause why 
this or that should be included in her world, seems un- 
able to produce her title deeds. There is, in other words. 


125 



III. Aldous Huxley and the Dowagers 

no proof that certain propositions which are known 
a priori are true and that they assert facts which are real, 
and only proof, it seems, will give Huxley satisfection. 

The Limits of Proof. But there are many things which 
Huxley accepts without proof, the validity of inference 
for example. All reasoning, it is obvious, depends upon 
the principle of induction. If I am not entitled to as- 
sume that the more fiequently A and B have been 
found together in the past, the greater the probability 
that A will be accompanied by B in the future, if I am 
not entitled, applying this principle, to infer A from B, 
or to say that A follows from B, or to affirm that A is im- 
plied by B, I cannot reason at all, for a chain of reason- 
ing is nothing but a set of inferences. Not only can I not 
reason, I cannot live. The gong rings for dinner, and I 
descend to the dining-room. Why? Because the dining- 
room and food having been frequently found in associa- 
tion in the past, I infer that they will be so associated 
in the future. If I did not unconsciously make this in- 
ference, I might just as well ascend to the roof or stay 
where I am. In either event I should not eat, and if I do 
not eat I die. 

The legitimacy of induction is assumed, it is clear, not 
only in reasoning, but in every moment of our daily life. 
We think on the assumption that it is valid and we act 
on the assumption that it is valid. But how is its validity 
to be established? Certainly not by reasoning, for that 
would be to assume the vaUdity of the very principle 
that it is required to prove; nor by sense experience, for 

126 



Insight and Reason 

induction is equally entailed by sense experience, en- 
abling us, for example, to work up the chaos of sense 
data of which our senses make us aware into a coherent 
world of chairs and tables. It seems, then, that we have 
got to assume it. Reason again is both judge and jury in 
her own cause. Asserting that she is unable to function 
unless she is allowedHo infer, she gives herself permission 
to infer. 

The truth of the principle of induction — it is a nettle 
we must grasp sooner or later, and we may as well grasp 
it now — is, in fact, revealed to insight. We just see that 
A follows from B, and that is all we can say. Does Hux- 
ley, therefore, doubt the principle? Not at all. It is ram- 
pant throughout the whole of his closely reasoned essay. 
But if the principle of induction, upon which the whole 
structure of reasoning rests, is revealed to insight, may 
not other things be so revealed? What other things? 

Those to which I have already referred as the dow- 
agers of philosophy. Truth, Goodness and Beauty. 
Huxley, cis I have had already to confess, is extremely 
rude to the dowagers, so rude, in fact, as to refuse to 
recognize their existence. Metaphysically he cuts them 
dead. It is high time that somebody spoke up for their 
reputation*, and though I am in general not much given 
to the defence of dowagers, my chivalry urges me to 
take up Huxley’s challenge. 

Insight and Reason. Let me begin by summarizing the 
conclusions I have reached. First, there are some tmths 
which cannot be proved; they are nevertheless true. 

127 



III. Aldous Huxley and the Dowagers 

'For these truths it is inadmissible to demand evidence, 
for they are self-evident. They are, that is to say, simply 
seen to be true and unquestioningly accepted as such. 
Among them is the truth of the principle of inference or 
induction, which Huxley accepts. \ 

Secondly, to the degree that airFeasoning rests upon 
the principle of induction, reasoning has an irrational 
feasis^...i^ot only is the general principle accepted without 
proof, but each step of the argument which the prin- 
ciple leads us to take is strictly indefensible. At each step 
in a chain of argument we either see that A follows from 
B, or we do not. If we do not, no arguments can be 
brought forward to convince us which do not themselves 
involve similar acts of insight, which do not themselves, 
that is to say, involve an acceptance of some step similar 
to that questioned. 

The words ‘acts of insight’ are used deliberately be- 
cause they lead to my third conclusion^that there is an 
element of direct revelation in all thiimng. We either 
see things, or we do not. It follows that, since we un- 
doubtedly reason and sometimes reason correctly, there 
can be no objection in principle to the acceptance of 
truths instinctively apprehended or revealed to insight. 
The principle of direct revelation, in other words, may 
be accepted as a method of arriving at truth^ 

We are now in a position to take up the cudgels on 
behalf of the dowagers. 

Enough has, I hope, been said to show that no strictly 
rational defence is possible. Like other dowagers, Truth, 
Goodness and Beauty are not reasonable. But having 

128 



The Argument from Subjective Meed Examined 

agreed that there is nothing against them on principle, 
let us see what considerations can be advanced in their 
favour. They are mainly negative. If we cannot positively 
vindicate the actuality of the dowagers, it is. at least 
possible to show that most of the attacks that are made 
upon them are baseless. If we cannot prove that Good- 
ness, Truth and^eauty oast, we certainly, cannot prove, 
as Huxley seems to think , tha t they do not. Let me begin 
by stating, as I understand it, the precise point at issue. 

The Argumenl from Subjective Need Examined. Certain 
phenomena of which we are conscious in ethical and aes- 
thetic experience have seemed to many to be explicable 
only upon the assumption that there are in the universe 
certain absolute values. Goodness and Beauty, with 
which the phenomena in question are intimately con- 
nected, and from which they derive their significance. 
Those who have taken this view have tried to show that 
the assumption of the reality of these values provides 
the only coherent and intelligible account of the pheno- 
mena, and that to that extent their existence is de- 
manded by reason. In the last resort, however, they 
have admitted that these objective values are revealed 
only to dii’ect insight or intuition, which in their most 
satisfying and authoritative forms are vouchsafed to us 
in mystical vision. Against them it is urged by Huxley 
that these absolutes are subjective figments projected 
by our minds into the external world. They are not, 
therefore, in any sense independently real. The dow- 
agers, in short, are merely Mrs. Harrises. 


I 


129 



HI. Aldous Huxley and the Dowagers 

In the first place, we may ask, what is the precise 
significance of the word ‘subjective’ as it is used in this 
connection? It is, I think, this; if the existence of an entity 
can be shown to answer to a need of the human spirit, 
it may be inferred that the entity in question is an 
assumption of the spirit that needs it. We need, as Mr. 
Huxley says, a spiritual world more truly real than that 
of everyday life. Therefore we falsely assume that it 
exists^ 

But things are not quite so simple as that. Altho^h 
the heed is subjective, the situation in which it arises is 
not. Man’s consciousness is no isolated and arbitrary 
phenomenon in the universe^ but, as Huxley would be 
the first to admit, a biological growth moulded by its 
past and bearing the impress of its origin plainly upon 
it. What is true of man’s consciousness is true also of the 
needs of his consciousness. These, too, have their roots 
in the past, are determined by man’s ancestry, and con- 
ditioned by his environment. Presumably, therefore, 
they reflect the factors that condition them. Now man’s 
ancestry and his environment, together with all the 
influences which have gone to make him what he is, are 
not subjective, but objecti\^ They constitute the ex- 
ternal situation in which his consciousness anti the needs 
of his consciousness arise, and to which they respond. 
This external situation is a real factor in the universe. 
Hence man’s needs, instead of being subjective pheno- 
mena, in the sense in which what is subjective is arbi- 
trarily so, spring from and reflect real factors in the 
universe. There is, therefore, reason to suppose that. 


130 



The Argument from ‘Origins’ Examined 

when these needs are so widespread as to be almost 
universal, the universe to which they point should bear 
a definite relation to the situation in which they have 
arisen. It would indeed be strange, if a need which was 
demonstrably the product of a real situation, should be 
devoid both of point and significance, and own no 
objective counterpart in the universe which gave it 
birth. 

The Argument from ‘Origins' Examined. Secondly, it is 
important to realize precisely how much and also how 
little the argument from the origins of human needs 
proves. On this point there is much current misconcep- 
tion. Tracing the beginning of the aesthetic conscious- 
ness in the emotions and of the moral consciousness 
in the social observances of primitive tribes, people 
argue as if in so doing they had somehow discredited or 
invalidated the aesthetic and moral consciousness. It is 
not clear why. If the doctrine of evolution is to be taken 
seriously, we arc surely entitled to hold that there is 
more in the evolved product than there was in the germ 
from which it may be shown to have arisen. Why should 
this doctrine not apply to the phenomena of the devel- 
oped human consciousness? To show that religion began 
as Totemism and Exogamy does not prove that it is not 
religion, that is to say, something very different now, 
any more than the discovery that the savage can only 
count on the fingers of one hand invalidates the multi- 
plication table. To know that Einstein was once a fish 
and still possesses the rudiments of gills tells us very httle 



III. Aldous Huxley and the Dowagers 

about the present mind of Einstein. To judge a thing by 
its fruits is as relevant to an estimation of its true char- 
acter as to judge it by its roots. It is as important, in 
other words, to know what a thing is aiming at as to 
know how it began, and no account of it which, looking 
to its origin, proceeds to interpret its present nature 
solely in terms of its early history, can pretend to be 
complete. In any event it cannot be too strongly em- 
phasized that to lay bare the origin of a thing is not 
tantamount to discrediting it. The point should be 
obvious, yet Huxley often argues as if the fact that 
, savages have believed in God constitutes a sufficient 
ground for regarding God as a figment, just as in 
fwritiog^of Pascal he seems to think that by showing that 
Goodness, Truth and Beauty reflect present needs, and 
that these present needs have developed by a continuous 
process from savage ones, he has somehow proved 
Goodness, Truth and Beauty to be unreal. Because 
everybody believes and hcis always believed in some- 
thing, the belief admittedly is not therefore true; but 
equally it is not therefore false^ 

What, then, is Real? Thirdly, we are entitled to ask by 
what criterion of reality that of the dowagers is im- 
pugned. If they are not real, what is? As far as I can 
gather, Huxley’s answer — as it is certainly the answer of 
many similar critics — is that the physical world of 
which our senses make us aware is real. Huxley often 
writes as if the world of material objects and the mind 
which knows it are the only types of reality that exist. 


132 



What, then, is Real? 

Nothing that is not matter or mind — and even mind may 
turn out to be merely a function of matter — ^is for him 
real. I am surprised that Huxley should subscribe to 
this common-sense notion of reality. He argues at times 
as if he were unaware that common sense is merely a 
mass of dead metaphysics; its beliefs the debris left by 
the philosophies of the past. Yet he should know — no 
one better — that there are very good reasons indeed for 
denying that the everyday matter-of-fact world has any 
existence independent of ourselves. And he does know 
it, for he tells us in his Essays that mind may be the 
creator of matter, and flirts engagingly with the solipsist 
hypothesis that we never know anything except our own 
mental states. Admitting so much, how can he bring 
himself to employ the so-called ‘reality’ of the sensible 
world known to us in perception as a stick with which to 
chastise the dowagers? Unless we are prepared to take 
an extremely naive view of perception, for which mod- 
ern science holds no brief, it is not in the external world 
of daily experience that we are to find the objective 
reality which is denied to revealed values. 

For it is not merely agnosticism that modern science 
professes as to the nature of the objects of our percep- 
tion. If it -were, the case from Huxley’s point of view 
would be bad, but not so bad. But science does not 
assert that it cannot tell us what is the nature of the 
reality of what we perceive. On the contrary, physic- 
ists are surprisingly found to detect in the appar- 
ently neutral objects of everyday experience, precisely 
what Huxley detects in the world of spiritual values. 


^33 



III. Aldous Huxley and the Dowagers 

namely ourselves. The modem scientist, in fact, has 
made a belated discovery of the uses of Idealism, and is 
surprised to have to announce what many philosophers 
could have told him all along, that his so-called external 
world is a projection of himself. We only know our own 
ideas and sensations, said Locke, Berkeley and Hume; 
the external cause of these ideas and sensations is un- 
known to us, said Berkeley, Hume and (with reserva- 
tions) Locke, and must be presumed to be God (Berke- 
ley) or non-existent (Hume). We know only the pheno- 
menal world, the part product of our mental categories, 
said Kant. Things as they are in themselves, if there be 
such, we do not know. 

The Scientists discover Idealism. Emanating merely from 
philosophers, these assertions attracted little attention. 
It is only since the voices of the physicist and psycholo- 
gist have been raised to swell the idealist chorus that the 
part which we ourselves play in constructing our own 
perceptual world has been generally conceded. To 
many psychologists the advance of psychology seems to 
yield continuous evidence that the more closely we ana- 
lyse the objects of our consciousness, the more certainly 
do we find ourselves. ‘We make our own world,’ says 
Havelock Ellis; ‘when we have made it awry we can 
remake it approximately truer. Man lives by imagina- 
tion.’ And Vaihinger has urged that just as the digestive 
system breaks up the matter which it receives, mixes it 
■with its own juices and so makes it suitable for assimila- 
tion in the practical interests of the organism, ‘so the 


134 



Chairs and the Dowagers on all Fours 

psyche envelops the thing perceived with categories 
which it has developed out of itself.’ Thus our conscious- 
ness is no guide whatever to the physical happenings, if 
any, outside our skins. 

The physicist is in substantial agreement. The theory 
of relativity, for instance, has much to say of the mental 
factor in scientific explanation. The physicist’s world is a 
spatio-temporal flux of events whose characteristics are 
limited to severely mathematical properties. Upon them 
the mind imposes, or from them it selects (accounts 
differ) certain patterns which appear to possess the 
quality of comparative permanence. These patterns are 
worked up by the mind into continuing objects, and 
become the chairs and tables of daily life. But, as they 
are modelled by the mind, so do they reflect the needs 
of the perceiver. Different minds with different interests,, 
those of Martians for example, selecting different pat- 
terns would ‘perceive’ different worlds. ‘All through the 
physical world’, says Eddington, ‘runs an unknown 
content, which must really be the stuff of oUr own 
consciousness. . . . We have found that where sci- 
ence has progressed the farthest, the mind has but; 
regained from nature that which the mind has put into 
nature.’ • 

Chairs and the Dowagers on all Fours. Is not the language 
familiar? Do we not recognize the authentic subjectivist 
note? Mutatis mutandis, the words might be those of 
Huxley disclosing, as if it were some shameful secret, the 
human origin of the dowagers. Human in origin they 


*35 



III. Aldous Huxley and the Dowagers 

may be, but, if they are, chairs and tables are in the 
same case, and for the same reason. 

Does Huxley deny the reality of chairs and tables? 
i Apparently not! Matter, he says, ‘whether we like it or 
; not, is always there’. With what logic then does he deny 
the reality of absolute values formed apparently by the 
same process of mental projection? The difference 
between a chair and a philosophical dowager is merely 
the difference between the ways in which our experience 
is organized. We organize our sensory experience and 
produce the world of material objects which science ex- 
plores; we organize our spiritual experience and, 
behold, the dowagers Goodness, Truth and Beauty, 
whom philosophers discuss and whom mystics enjoy. 
Whatever grounds there are for impugning the indepen- 
dent reality of the second world are equally valid against 
that of the first. But if, rejecting these grounds, we hold 
that what we perceive by the senses is objectively real 
and exists independently of our experience, then what 
we perceive by the spirit is equally so. Personally I do 
reject them, but that is another matter which cannot 
be pursued here. I mention it only to explain my sup- 
port of the dowagers. 

•i 

Application to Mystical Experience. But Huxley has a 
further point. If we were to assume provisionally that 
absolute valu^ are real, that they are independent of 
ourselves and not projections of ourselves, then, he says, 
we could not know them. Why not? ‘The revelations’, 
he says, speaking of mystical experience, ‘are couched 

136 



Application to Mystical Experience 

in human language and are the work of individual 
human beings who lived all too humanly in space and 
time. We are fatally back again among the relativities.’ 
This seems to be a simple confusion between a revela- 
tion and its object. Granted for the moment that the ob- 
ject of mystical experience, though revealed to insight, 
is independent of it, that it is discovered not created, 
then the fact that it is described in human language is 
no ground for inferring that it itself is human. The mys- 
tic, no doubt, talks nonsense; at least it is nonsense to 
those who are not mystics. But how could it be other- 
wise? Language was invented to describe the objects of 
one world, the world of common experience, and to com- 
municate its happenings. It is clearly inappropriate to 
those of another. If there is a world of absolute values, 
any attempt to discourse of it in the language of the 
common-sense world must of necessity be misleading; 
at any rate it will mislead all who have not shared in 
some degree the experience to which it relates. I cannot, 
if I may revert to the toothache, convey by means of 
words the experience of a toothache to one who has 
never had it; but that does not mean that my toothache 
is not real. Similarly the fact that the mystics’ accounts 
of the dowagers are vague and flowery to the nth 
degree, gives no reason for supposing that the dowagers 
have not been viewed. If mysticism could give an ac- 
count of itself, it would cease to be mysticism. 

Mr. Huxley’s language at this point is itself confused, 
but I am inclined to think that it conveys a suggestion 
to the effect that, if the inhuman and perfect existed, 

137 



III. Aldous Huxley and the Dowagers 

the human and relative could have no intercourse with 
it. I agree that it could not, if intercourse implied con- 
tinuity of substance and community of being. The per- 
fect, it is clear, could not enter into communion with the 
imperfect. But why should the relationship imply com- 
munion in this sense? One does not after all have inter- 
course with dowagers. But one can contemplate them. 
A cat may look at a king, and a mystic at a dowager, 
and neither the king nor the dowager is any the worse 
for the experience. They are probably unaware of it. 


138 



Chapter V 

Defence of Reason — I. Reason and Truth 

★ 

I. ATTACK ON REASON 

Reason the Tool of Impulse and Desire. I propose to begin 
in this chapter the defence of reason to which I com- 
mitted myself in the third. The contemporary dis- 
paragement takes two main forms. There are those who 
assert that in the realm of thought reason does not and 
cannot give us the truth, and those who in the realm of 
conduct declare that reason should not, even if it can, 
guide our lives. Both forms of attack have in recent years 
derived considerable impetus from the growth of psycho- 
analysis and the popularization of the notions which 
psycho-analysts have made familiar. The animal origin 
of human nature is emphaisized and the fact that our roots 
stretch back to a remote pre-human past. It is from these 
roots, it ii said, that the continuous stream of impulses 
and desires which is the driving force of our actions takes 
its rise. Impulses and desires are the springs not only of 
conduct but also of thought. The energy with which we 
think, no less than the energy with which we act is, 
therefore, non-rational in origin. And not only the 
energy, but also the incentive. For thinking no less than 

139 



/. Reason and Truth 


acting is undertaken with a purpose; it is prompted by 
the desire to reach a conclusion. The desire for a con- 
clusion determines the character and trend of our 
thinking. Hence, the goal which attracts, no less than 
the energy which inspires our apparently rational 
activities is irrational. If impulse is the motive force 
which drives reason from behind, it is difficult not to 
suppose that reason will march to the tune that impulse 
pipes her. If goals and ends are the prizes that pull 
reason from in front, it is difficult not to believe that she 
will reach only those conclusions which are compatible 
with their achievement. Thus reason comes increasingly 
to be represented not as a free activity, moving dis- 
interestedly in accordance with the laws which she her- 
self has dictated to the dispassionate contemplation of 
ends which only she can conceive, but as a servant of 
irrational forces suborned by them to reach the goal, 
whether of action or belief, that will afford them the 
greatest instinctive satisfaction. 

In pursuance of this role, reason invents arguments 
for what we instinctively wish to believe and pretexts 
for what we instinctively wish to do. Morality itself 
may be, and frequently is, interpreted in this way. 
Laws and codes, conventions and prohibitions are screens 
erected by society to disguise from its members the real 
nature of their motives. Englishmen, it is said, have 
brought the use of reason to an unusual degree of effi- 
ciency in the performance of this office, and are never at 
a loss for an argument to convince themselves that they 
are only doing their duty, whenever they want an 


140 



Impotence of Reason in Action and Thought 

excuse for making themselves disagreeable. Thus 
Samuel Butler tells us of his father that he never wou’d 
admit that he did anything because he wanted to; he 
was always able to persuade himself that what he wanted 
to do was also what he ought to do. 

Impotence of Reason in Action and Thought. The fisherman 
who persuades himself that fish being cold-blooded 
animals do not really feel the pain of having their 
throats dragged out of them by a hook, the parent who 
believes that he flogs his child for its good and not for 
his pleasure, the smoker who assures us that tobacco 
ash is good for the carpet, no less than the nation which 
pretends that it is fighting to maintain the integrity of 
treaties, to make the world safe for democracy, to pre- 
serve its honour, its place in the sun, its wives, children, 
firesides, religion or what not, whenever it wants an 
excuse to indulge its impulses of aggression and destruc- 
tion, arc all, it is said, in their own ways utilizing their 
reasons to justify them in indulging their passions. It 
is, indeed, the chief difference between the civilized 
man and the savage, that the former is under the neces- 
sity of invoking his reason to assure himself that he is 
doing his individual or civic duty by judicially murder- 
ing criminals, patriotically hating foreigners, or ‘lynch- 
ing’ negroes in a passion of moral indignation, whenever 
he wants an excuse for gratifying instincts which savages 
indulge without hypocrisy. 

As in action, so in thought. ‘Metaphysics’, said Brad- 
ley, may be ‘the finding of bad reasons for what we be- 



I. Reason and Truth 


lieve upon instinct’ ; but ‘to find these reasons is no less 
an instinct’. Science is represented as the product of the 
impulse of curiosity, philosophy of that of wonder, art 
of that of play. As for religion, it is simply a contrivance 
on the part of reason for satisfying our unconscious need 
to think that the universe is at heart friendly to human 
nature, and that the spiritual, the minded and the akin 
condition and underly the brutal, the mindless and the 
alien. Thus reason, together with conscience and will, 
together in fact with all the more conscious and lately 
acquired faculties of the race, is regarded as a screen for 
our instincts, an apologist for our passions and a tool of 
our needs. It is a cork bobbing about on the waves of 
unconscious impulses whose direction is determined by 
the currents that run below the surface. 

Reason as the Cancer of the Soul. Impotent in the sphere 
of thought, reason is represented as deleterious in that 
of practice. The life of the philosopher or the scholar 
which men in the past have consented to admire even 
when they could not hope to emulate, is to-day decried 
because it does not give scope to our passions and im- 
pulses. Under the influence of D. H. Lawrence , and 
similar writers, men have come to think that' thinking 
is almost a crime. Not only must we not pass our lives 
reading in the library or observing in the laboratory; 
we must not even permit re2ison to guide them in the 
home or the market place. To do so is to do violence to 
our ‘real’ nature by damming up the stream of impulses 
and desires in which it resides. Upon this ‘real’ nature 


142 



The Cult of the Primitive 

reason is treated as a sort of excrescence, which has 
grown and spread .until it has sucked into itself all the 
energies of our being. It is represented as absorbing for 
its own nourishment the generous forces of man’s pas- 
sional nature, thus depriving the organism as a whole 
of the primitive energy which alone can give zest and 
love of living. Reason has in fact become a cancer prey- 
ing upon the tissues of the soul. Hence, the life accord- 
ing to reason comes to be regarded as a kind of blood- 
less abstraction from life proper, and we are asked in the 
interests of full, free and fruitful living to restrain not 
the passions but the reason. 

The Cult of the Primitive. In contemporary literature 
this attack upon the reason takes two rather different 
forms. At Huxley’s intellectual anti-rationalism we have 
already glanced. There remains the romantic anti- 
rationalism of Lawrence. 

One of the outstanding developments of the post-war 
years has been a revolt against sophistication and a 
romantic cult of the primitive. The post-war repudia- 
tion of the traditional disciplines in conduct has been 
accompanied by a repudiation of traditional disciplines 
in art. Negroes and jazz the emanation of negroes; the 
jungle and the Ju-Ju and Epstein’s statues, the emana- 
tion of the jungle and the Ju-Ju; the music of Stravinsky 
and the pictures of the Surrealistes are acclaimed just 
because they are not in the classical tradition, because 
they do not embody the traditional aesthetic virtues, the 
virtues of clarity and poise and studied beauty of form. 


143 



I. Reason and Truth 

M. Breton writing in The Quarter, an American review 
which has devoted a whole number to the exposition of 
Surrealism, expresses his belief ‘in the higher reality of 
certain forms of association hitherto neglected, in the 
omnipotence of dreaming, in the unbiassed play of 
thought’. To this unexplored territory he welcomes 
artists and creative writers, suggesting that it is the 
matrix of all true art. ‘Artists and creative writers’ are 
not slow to accept the invitation. Nerval gives us poems 
whose exploration of the vague territories of the sub- 
liminal issues via a fabric of unconscious association in 
phrases and rhythms that derive their meaning, if any, 
from the forgotten past, and apparently make their 
appearance on the poet’s writing paper as unaccount- 
ably as spirit messages, which, indeed, they often re- 
semble, while Salvador Duli offers us pictures in which, 
against a predominating background of grand pianos, 
the skulls of animals, entrails, foetuses and alarmingly 
distorted human beings jostle one another in their 
efforts to portray the enigmatic pulsings of the sublim- 
inal self. 

The Divine Abdomen of Lawrence. Of this cult D. H. 
Lawrence is at once the apologist and the priest. He has 
given it its most notable literary expression; he has also 
provided it with its Bible. Going to Mexico to get local 
colour for his revolt against civilization, he found the 
perfect type of humanity in men in whom the intellect 
was demonstrably subordinate to the stomach, the geni- 
tals and the solar plexus. The perfect Lawrencian man 


144 



The Divine Abdomen of Lawrence 

has subjected his intellect to these fundamental organs 
and to the psychological growths which are rooted in 
them; indeed, it is not too much to say that his intellect 
is literally in his guts. This, at least, seems to be the 
meaning of those lyrical passages in which Lawrence 
raves over a dusky ‘abdomen where the great blood 
stream surges in the dark and surges in its own generic 
experience ... it is the dark blood falling back from the 
mind, from sight and speech and knowing, back to the 
great central source where is rest and unspeakable 
renewal’. Abjuring as artificial reason and the fife of 
the intellect, subsiding into ‘the great blood stream 
which surges in the dark’ of the abdomen and the geni- 
tals, man renews his being and becomes one with the 
ultimate reality of things. 

And the ultimate reality of things? It is nothing more 
nor less than God. Hence, to abjure the intellect is to 
become divine. ‘I can become one with God, consum- 
mated into eternity,’ Lawrence declares, ‘by taking the 
road down the senses into the utter darkness of power, 
till I am one with the darkness of initial power, beyond 
knowledge of any opposite.’ The last phrase has a fami- 
liar ring. We seem to be listening to the cry of one of the 
great Christian mystics, to Madame Guyon or St.John 
of the Cross, struggling through the ‘Dark Night of the 
Soul’. ‘Everywhere one Being, one Life’ was the goal of 
mystical activity towards which the self struggled in the 
dimness and anguish of the ‘Dark Night’: ‘Thereupon 
speaks the Heavenly Father to him, “Thou shalt call 
me Father, and shalt never cease to enter in, ever 


K 


145 



1. Reason and Truth 

nearer, so as to sink the deeper in an unhuman and un- 
named abyss; and, above all ways, images and forms, 
and above all powers, to lose thyself, deny thyself, and 
ever unform thyself.” In this last condition nothing is to 
be seen but a ground which rests upon itself, everywhere 
one Being, one Life.’ So Tauler, describing the drastic 
process of unselfing, the abdication of reason and con- 
sciousness which in the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ paves 
the way for union with the Divine. . . . 

But what for the mystics was a painful and humiliat- 
ing prerequisite of union, a stage one had regrettably to 
undergo, is apparently for Lawrence the goal itself. 
While they looked upwards for the divine, finding the 
uniting thread in the ecstasies of the developed spirit, 
Lawrence looks downwards and finds it in the orgasms 
of the excited genitals. The consciousness of the enrap- 
tured mystic is lost in God; that of Lawrence’s idealized 
Mexican with ‘face lifted and sightless, eyes half closed 
and visionless, mouth open and speechless’ is sunk in 
‘the abdomen’. The intellect, if not the spirit, may, 
Lawrence concedes, win free from these subterranean 
influences; but it does so at its peril. In fact all the 
features of modern civilization which he most dislikes 
are due to the disastrous fact that it has in a measure 
won free. For the price of its freedom is to cut itself ofl' 
from the ‘central source’ of being. Hence the life of the 
mind is like the life of an uprooted flower, arid, sterile 
and short. 

Sentimentality Inverted. Now this belly worship seems to 

146 



Sentimentality Inverted 

me to spring from a source entirely different from that 
of the sophisticated Huxleyan relativism at which I 
have already glanced. Mark Rampion, in Point Counter- 
point, is, indeed sometimes acclaimed as an embodiment 
of Lawrence, or at least a mouthpiece for the character- 
istically Lawrencian point of view. And Rampion, it is 
said, is presented sympathetically; he is one of the least 
repulsive people in the boot. Possibly! Nevertheless, 
Lawrence’s doctrine owns different roots from Huxley’s, 
is inspired by different motives and issues in a different 
creed. Huxley’s is an impartial, an all-round sort of 
philosophy. He is for giving all sides of our nature a fair 
show. He does not discriminate against reason; he 
merely denies its primacy and warns us against allowing 
it to be sole guide to our conduct or supposing that it 
can give us truth. Lawrence would like to submerge it 
altogether. 

And yet the influences upon contemporary life and 
thought of these two such different gospels of two such 
different men are not dissimiliar. Each seeks to dethrone 
reason from the scat which has been traditionally 
claimed for her by that great line of European thinkers 
which stretches from Plato to Mill. Each is readily ac- 
claimed b^ an unromantic generation which, headed off 
by the excesses of the Victorians and the mockings of 
Shaw from the traditional outlets for its sentimentality 
in brooks and roses, baa-lambs and larks, hymns and 
angels, must invert its values and find a mystical signifi- 
cance in foetuses and intestines and a new channel for 
its romanticism in the blood stream, the solar plexus 

147 



I. Reason and Truth 


and the unconscious. Each has contributed his quota 
to the anti-rationalism of the age. 

Claude Houghton on Emotional Death. This anti- 
rationalism pervades our literature. Scarcely a novel is 
written with any claim to serious attention that does not 
implicitly or explicitly endorse it. Hemingway writes 
deliberately in words of one syllable arranged in sen- 
tences of not more than a dozen words, for fear that he 
might tax the intelligences of his readers, or impute to 
them a shameful sophistication by presuming their 
familiarity with the rotundities of classical English 
prose. William Faulkner chooses characters whose 
minds and emotions are alike of an extreme simplicity. 
In a series of books, The Crisis, I am Jonathan Scrivener, 
Chaos is Come Again, and most notably in Julian Grant 
Loses his Way, Claude Houghton, widely acclaimed as 
one of the most ‘representative’ and one of the most 
‘significant’ — blessed meaning-begging words! — novel- 
ists of the day, joins in the anti-rational hue and cry. I 
suppose that the word ‘representative’ means that 
Houghton stands for and expresses the tendencies now 
stirring in the minds of typical young men of to-day; 
‘significant’ may mean expressive of those nbt yet stir- 
ring, but about to stir. Houghton is, therefore, not only 
a reflection but a signpost 

And what does he reflect? To what does he point? To 
the terrible fate that awaits the follower of logic. Julian 
Grant is the epitome of a man’s life, the life of a man 
who, setting logic, curiosity, the lust of knowledge and 

148 



Indictment of Reason Summarized 

the greed of experience (I am not sure, on reflection, 
that Huxley, let alone Lawrence, would like the anim- 
adversion implied in ‘the greed of experience’) above 
love and pity and intuitive understanding, loses his way, 
wanders in spiritual bogs, and finally ‘dies an emotional 
death’. 

Dying ‘an emotional death’ does not mean, as one 
might have been tempted to suppose, dying in an 
emotional manner. What it does mean apparently is 
suffering a death of the emotions. Those emotiobally dead 
no longer feel anything at all! 

I am not clear precisely why an emotional death so 
defined should be regarded with such horror — one 
would have thought that, in so far as one’s feelings were 
unpleasant (and too many feelings are) it would be 
rather nice to contrive not to have them; although how 
the most ‘emotionally dead’ man would be able not to 
feel a dentist’s drill, or the fear of it, or being flogged to 
death in a German concentration camp, or the fear of it, 
we arc not told — but there is no doubt that to Houghton 
and his school it is the most terrible thing that can hap- 
pen to a man. It is equivalent to loss of honour by a 
Victorian middle-class woman; that is, it is worse, much 
worse, thifti death tout court. 

Indictment of Reason Summarized. But in spite of the 
vagueness of Houghton’s message, its general purport 
is clear enough. Julian Grant is an epitome of his civiliz- 
ation, a civilization that has trusted overmuch to intel- 
lect and now drifts to chaos because of the disparity 


149 



/. Reason and Truth 

between its intellect and its spirit. Pride of intellect is 
\ censured; spiritual humility approved. The heart has its 
1 reasons of which the reason knows nothing; and they 
I are good reasons. Logic is a bad guide, feeling is a good 
one. Let us, therefore, at all costs stop thinking and try 
to feel. As Chesterton has told us, Tt is better to talk 
wisdom foolishly like a saint, than to babble folly 
wisely like a don.’ 

Again, I am not sure how far Huxley would approve 
this particular form of the current anti-rationalism. 
That slighting reference to ‘greed of experience’ for 
example, seems to traverse one of his favourite doc- 
trines. One can almost see him wince, as that favourite 
corn, ‘Give them all a show’, is trodden on. But with the 
general trend of the indictment of reason, he would, as 
we have seen in previous chapters, find little to quarrel. 
And since he is at once the most lucid and the most in- 
fluential of the anti-rationalists, it will be as well to 
return for a summary and succinct statement of the 
modern anti-rationalist case to his writings. 

The indictment might, then, read somewhat as fol- 
lows. First, reason never gives us theoretical truth — 
‘Science’, it will be remembered, is ‘no truer than 
common sense or lunacy, than art or religion’, since 
‘even if one should correspond to things in them- 
selves as perceived by some hypothetical non-human 
being, it would be impossible for us to discover which 
it was’. Secondly, to allow reason to rule the soul is to 
commit an offence against life; — ‘To live, the soul must 
be in intimate contact with the world; must assimilate 

150 



The Pitiable Intellectual 


it through all the channels of sense and desire, thought 
and feeling, which nature has provided for the pur- 
pose.’ 

The Pitiable Intellectual. Now this precisely is what, 
according to Huxley, the intellectual does not do. The 
scholar, the philosopher, the recluse, even the scientist, 
are men who have chosen to go through the world halt 
and maimed. In choosing reason as their guide, know- 
ledge as their goal, they have definitely abjured some 
of ‘the channels of sense and desire’, and have scorned 
delights in order the better to live laborious days. And 
they are condemned for their pains as pitiable human 
abstractions. Huxley quotes with appropriate com- 
ments the famous passage from the Phaedo in which 
Socrates describes the characteristic austerities of the 
philosopher. ‘ “Do you think it like a philosopher to 
take very seriously what are called pleasures such as 
eating and drinking?” “Certainly not, Socrates,” said 
Simmias. (How one’s feet itch to kick the bottoms of 
these imbeciles who always agree with the old sophist, 
whatever nonsense he talks! They deserved the hemlock 
even more richly than their master.) “Or sex?” Socrates 
goes on. ‘INo.” “Or the whole business of looking after 
the body? Will the philosopher rate that highly?” Of 
course he won’t — the fool! The philosopher’s soul 
“withdraws itself as far as it can from all association and 
contact with the body and reaches out after truth by 
itself”.. With what results? Deprived of its nourishment, 
the soul grows thin and mangy, like the starved lion.’ 



I. Reason and Truth 


Nor do the other philosophers fare better. Kant, 
Newton and Descartes are treated with pitying con- 
tempt because, in greater or less measure, they chose to 
withdraw themselves from the ordinary avocations of 
life in order to pursue truth. They are stigmatized as 
‘extraordinary and lamentable souls’. ‘ “Poor brutes,” 
we cry at the sight of them’. ‘ “Why aren’t they given 
enough to eat?” ’ A little hard this on men who devoted 
their lives to trying to penetrate the secrets of the uni- 
verse! Hard, and in the case of Descartes unjust; Des- 
cartes, who voluntarily enlisted as a soldier in order to 
see the world; saw it and saw, too, fighting in the Low 
Countries; incurred the displeasure of the Church, was 
threatened with the fate of Galileo, and ultimately died 
of inflammation of the lungs caught through getting up 
at five in the morning to teach the Queen of Sweden 
philosophy. I wonder how often Huxley gets up at five 
in the morning! 

Attitude of my Students. Waiving the somewhat unfor- 
tunate illustration of Descartes, we may state Huxley’s 
case as follows. All sides of our nature must be given 
free and equal play, because all sides of our nature have 
equal value. To guide one’s life by reason and to culti- 
vate one’s intelligence, either for its own sake or in 
order that one may the better guide one’s life, is to 
forgo the development of certain important sides of 
one’s nature. It is in fact to starve oneself, and such 
starvation is an offence against life. Reasoning and 
reflecting, we lose contact with the earth and, as Law- 


152 



, Support from Dr. I. A. Richards 

rence would add, with our own entrails. Cut ofT from 
the natural source of its being, the soul becomes parched 
and thin, like a plant whose taproot has been severed. 
The intellectual, in short, lives and thinks in a water- 
tight compartment which his reason has made for him. 
So isolated, he is precluded both from living happily and 
from thinking fruitfully. 

This criticism of reason has become part of the intel- 
lectual climate of our time. It is implicit in the thought 
of the age. And, inevitably, the great Victorians are its 
particular targets. How emphatically my students in 
their essays denounce such men as Spencer and Mill. 
How pitiably they depict their lives ! They did not get 
drunk; they were not notorious for the quantity or the 
exuberance of their affairs with women; they did not 
set or cultivate new aesthetic fashions; they had no taste 
in wines; it is most improbable they even overate. Also 
they did not rush about in cars, go to cocktail parties, 
play games, thrill at the movies, or consort with young 
women in beach pyjamas. They only wrote books. 
What starved, what miserable lives! 

Support from Dr. I. A. Richards. The two criticisms of 
reason that 1 have outlined, the criticism that it cannot 
give us' truth, and the criticism that its excessive use is 
inimical to the good life, arc at bottom the same 
criticism. Because truth is conceived to be unobtainable 
and absolute beauty a chimxra, because in n word no 
values are recognized external to the self, attention 
comes to be concentrated upon the self. If the self is the 


153 



I. Reason and T ruth 


sole object of interest, its welfare becomes the sole object 
of pursuit. In what does its welfare consist? In goodness 
of living. What, then, is goodness of living? Can we 
admit that ‘goodness’ is a value, when we have so igno- 
miniously jettisoned values from the scheme of things? 
Certainly we cannot. Goodness of living is sim ply J ull- 
ness of living. The best life, then, is the one that satisfies 
the greatest number of our impulses and desires. Value, 
in so far as we permit the word at all, is on this basis to 
be found in the satisfaction of what Dr. Richards calls 
‘appetencies’. ‘Anything’, he says, ‘is valuable which 
.- will satisfy an appetency,’ provided of course that this 
satisfaction does not involve ‘the frustration of some 
equal or more important appetency’.' 

And if, suspecting that a value may after all be found 
lurking in disguise in the word ‘important’, we ask what 
is important, we are told that ‘the importance of an 
impulse can be defined for our purposes as the extent of the 
disturbance of other impulses in the individual’s activities which 
the thwarting of the impulse involves’. This, of course, is 
circular, for how are we to measure ‘the extent of the 
disturbance of other impulses’, except by reference to 
the importance of the impulses disturbed? But this is no 
time to stay for mere logic. Dr. Richards is clearly in 
the movement. His doctrine also purports to give a 
rpeaning to beauty and goodness; it interprets art and 
morals in terms of the satisfaction derived from them by 

/' From Dr. Richards’s The Prineiples of Literary Criticism (Chap- 
ter VII). 

2 My italics. 


154 



Distinction — Theoretical and Practical Reason 

the individual. As for truth, we have Huxley’s assertion 
that the best answers — by which he means, presumably, 
the truest answers, if he could but bring himself to use the 
word — ‘are those which permit the answerer to live 
most fully’. Thus, truth, the object of the theoretical 
reason, is subordinated to, if it is not dismembered in 
the interests of living; and morals and the discipline of 
the passions, study and the life of the mind, which have 
been traditionally enjoined upon men by authority, 
reason and experience alike, arc jettisoned in the inter- 
ests of ‘fuller’ living. 

II. DEFENCE OF REASON 

Distinction between Theoretical and Practical Reason. The 
ultimate defence of reason, like the ultimate defence of 
philosophy, must, in my view, be related to a particular 
conception of the universe as a whole, This conception 
1 have endeavoured to set forth in the second part of my 
Matter, Life and Value, and also in the concluding chap- 
ters oi Philosophical Aspects of Modern Science. In the last two 
chapter of this book I shall endeavour to indicate its main 
features in their bearing upon the issues raised in this 
and the preceding chapters. My immediate concern is to 
examine and to try to answer the criticisms of reason 
which I have summarized. 

Let us adopt for the purposes of discussion the distinc- 
tion between the theoretical and the practical reason 
which the critics of reason employ. The function of the^ 
theoretical reason, we will assume, is to discover truth; 


155 



/. Reason and Truth 

that of the practical reason, to guide our conduct, to 
teach us, in a word, how to hve. The distinction, which 
is Aristotle’s, prescribes an ideal, the ideal of reason’s 
ultimate performance. For the theoretical reason the 
ideal is the discovery and contemplation of truth; for the 
practical, the right conduct of life. That reason does not 
think or live up to these ideals is obvious; it is obvious 
too that we must judge it by its actual, not its ideal, 
performance. How far, then, does the actual perform- 
ance of reason judged in relation to these ideals, justify 
the contemporary strictures at which I have glanced? 

Emergence of Disinterested Reasoning. It is not denied 
that the operations of reason in the theoretical sphere 
are frequently biassed by our desires and distorted by 
our prejudices; that we embrace conclusions not be- 
cause they are true, but because we wish to think them 
true; and that, finding the universe as it appears un- 
amenable to our wishes and antagonistic to our desires, 
we employ our reasons to persuade us that, in its real as 
opposed to its apparent nature, it is such as we should 
desire. We may even consider that most of what passes 
for religion and philosophy is the outcome of precisely 
this kind of reasoning, for which the modern Arorld has 
coined the word ‘rationalizing’. Docs it, therefore, fol- 
low that reason can never operate freely, can never 
reach conclusions solely as a result of the compulsive 
force of the evidence? 

If we look at the history of human thought, we can 
trace the gradual emergence ofdisinterested reason, and a 

156 



Emergence of Disinterested Reasoning 

gradual increase in the scope of its operations. Initially, 
it would seem, men used their reasons to justify their 
wishes or to further their desires, and for no other pur- 
pose at all. They certainly did not use them disinterest- 
edly in order to acquire knowledge for its own sake. 

As the mind of man develops and the employment of 
reason grows, a process can be discerned which the 
historians of human thought have traced in some detail. 
It is the process whereby mythology becomes religion, 
superstition science, alchemy chemistry, and astrology 
astronomy. 

Let us take one or two examples of the process at 
work. The credit for originating it must surely belong to 
the Greeks. It is, indeed, their greatest achievement. 
Thales, travelling in the East, found that the Egyptians 
possessed certain rough rules of land measurement. 
Every year the inundation of the Nile obliterated the 
landmarks, and the peasants’ fields had to be marked 
out afresh. The Egyptians had invented a method of 
dividing up the land into rectangular areas, by means 
of which they contrived to cope with the floods. Thales 
was not interested in marking out fields. He saw that 
the method could be detached from the particular pur- 
pose for Which it had been used, and generalized into a 
method for calculating areas of any shape. So the rules 
of land measurement were converted into the science of 
geometry. The use of rccison to achieve a practical end, 
the furtherance of human desires, had given way to the 
use of reason in disinterested contemplation. The dis- 
interested contemplative reason discovered, and de- 

157 



I. Reason and Truth 

lighted to discover, that the angles at the base of an 
isosceles triangle are always equal; discovered too why 
they must be equal. The land surveyor still makes use 
of this truth in constructing maps; reason is content to 
enjoy it because it is true. In the same way the Greeks 
turned the art of astrology into the science of astron- 
omy. For many centuries the Babylonian priests had 
recorded the movements of the planets, in order to pre- 
dict human events which the stars were believed to 
govern. The Greeks borrowed the results of their 
observation, and Thales predicted an eclipse which 
occurred in Asia Minor in 585 b.c. But they ignored the 
whole fabric of astrological superstition which had 
hitherto provided the sole, the practical motive for 
observing the heavens. 

The movement of which Thales is so eminent an 
example is the beginning of science. Natural pheno- 
mena Ijiad previously been ascribed to the agency of 
supernatural forces. These forces had been personified 
into gods and devils, owning fragmentary or complete 
personalities accessible by prayer and sacrifice, amen- 
able to magical compulsion, corruptible by what was 
known as propitiation. Thunder and lightning, for 
example, were the acts of these beings. It whs left to 
Anaximander to propound the view that thunder and 
lightning were caused by the blast of the wind. Shut up 
in a thick cloud, the wind, he said, bursts forth; the 
tearing of the cloud makes the noise, and the rift gives 
the appearance of a flash in contrast with the blackness 
of the cloud. This is a typically scientific ‘explanation’. 

158 



From Superstition to Science 

From Superstition to Science. Now it seems to me that 
there is an important distinction between the use of 
reason to persuade us that thunder and lightning are 
caused by beings like ourselves, who are often angry but 
may be propitiated, and to discover exactly how thun- 
der and lightning are in fact caused. The former, the 
method of superstition, is rationahzing; it interprets the 
unknown in terms of the human, and arrives at explana- 
tions of phenomena which are pre-eminently gratifying, 
inasmuch as they represent phenomena as controllable 
by the human. The latter, the method of science, inter- 
prets phenomena in terms of the non-human, and pro- 
pounds explanations which arc ethically neutral. 

It is this distinction which the wholesale disparage- 
ment of reason on the ground that it cannot be dis- 
interested in its search for truth culpably ignores. 
Science has not legislated to the universe; it has been 
content to catalogue it. Its triumphs have been gained 
as the result of an impartial outlook upon the world 
which has sought to maintain a modest attitude towards 
objective fact. Instead of prescribing to things what they 
must be, it has been the object of the scientific method 
to discover what things are. It was only when science 
divorced ‘itself from ethical preoccupations that it ad- 
vanced. The early sciences, for example, astrology and 
alchemy, were dominated by utilitarian considerations. 
It was thought that the movements of the stars had an 
important influence on human beings, and that certain 
combinations of elements would bring untold material 
benefits to human lives; for these reasons the move- 


159 



/. Reason and Truth 

ments of the stars and the nature of the chemical com- 
binations were studied. The early physicists were dom- 
inated by the desire to prove that the universe had a 
purpose and was, therefore, ethically admirable, and 
psychology is still to some extent influenced by the need 
to arrive at similar conclusions about human nature. It 
was only when astrology and alchemy divested them- 
selves of utilitarian considerations, that they developed 
into astronomy and chemistry; only when physics 
emancipated itself from the need to show that the uni- 
verse it studied possessed this or that ethical character- 
istic, that it was found possible to discover how the 
physical universe worked. Psychology is only now begin- 
ning to reach a certitude of result as it emancipates itself 
from the necessity of illustrating preconceived notions 
about the rationality or ethical desirability of human 
nature. 

To reflect upon this process, the process which leads 
from superstition to science, as it has historically taken 
place, is to realize a certain highly significant fact. The 
victory of reason has been won first in those spheres in 
which both the subject matter studied and the conclu- 
sions reached are furthest removed from the sphere of 
the human, which are, therefore, most reniote from 
human wishes. 

Ethical Neutrality of Mathematics. The first victories are 
achieved in mathematics. Now, so far as I can see, the re- 
lations of numbers have no bearing whatever upon hu- 
man aspirations or emotions. So far as I am concerned, 

160 



Ethical Neutrality of Mathematics 

seven times seven might just as well make forty-eight as 
forty-nine. Why, then, do I think that it makes forty-nine? 
Only, I imagine, because I can see that it does; at any 
rate, after the most careful inspection of my conscious, 
and a painstaking effort to acquaint myself with all that 
analysts tell me about my unconscious self, I can find no 
other reason for my belief. A poultry farmer once a week 
goes to market with ten dozen eggs which he sells for two 
pence each; he sells so many eggs every year; the up- 
keep of his poultry farm costs him £']oo a year. How 
much profit does he make on every egg? I don’t know; 
nor, I expect, does the farmer. He ought to know, you 
say, and he would be a more successful farmer if he 
did. Certainly! Therefore, you conclude, arithmetic 
does concern human interests. And that is where you 
are wrong; for the farmer’s concerns are not arithmetic. 
They are arithmetic made easy for children by the intro- 
duction of a little not very successful local colouring. 
.Arithmetic as such has not heard of farmers, has no 
cognizance of eggs or of the means by which they are pro- 
duced, and is sublimely indifferent as to whether there 
is a profit or not. When a problem in the arithmetic 
book begins ‘A poultry farmer goes to market’, it is not 
strictly tclhng the truth. What it ought to say is: ‘//"there 
were a poultry farmer who sold weekly ten dozen 
eggs for twopence each, and if the upkeep of his poultry 
farm cost him a year, then . . . what would be the 
profit on each egg?’ Or, more austerely still: ‘What is 
the relation expressed in pounds, shillings and pence be- 
tween 1 20 twopences, seven hundred pounds and twelve 

L i6i 



/. Reason and Truth 

months, in the circumstances in which . . . etc?’ Arith- 
metic, in other words, is concerned not with facts but 
with relations; with the relations not between things but 
between quantities. No doubt the matters upon which 
the discovery of these relations between quantities 
throws light interest us enormously. Arithmetic, in fact, 
can be applied. It can enable us to calculate, to predict, 
to cheat. But the relations themselves are matters com- 
pletely indifferent. 

As for the fact that the product of (a-f-b) and (a — b) 
is a^ — b^, I can see absolutely nothing to be said for it 
except that it is a fact: it is neither beautiful, holy, help- 
ful, consoling nor useful. It just is; and mankind by 
a process of apparently disinterested reason has dis- 
covered that it is. It is because of its remoteness that it is 
in mathematics that reason first wins its triumphs, ex- 
ploring the relations between numbers and mapping 
what it has discovered without fear or favour, and, so 
far as I can see, with no purpose except the desire to 
find out. 

It is, of course, the case that even in mathematics 
in its early stages human wishes made their influence 
felt. Men anthropomorphized numbers and humanized 
geometrical shapes. Thus the Pythagoreans irivested the 
number lo with a nimbus of sanctity — it was the perfect 
number — and the regular pentagon with mystical sig- 
nificance. And all sorts of mysterious meanings have 
been read by cabalists into the numbers three and seven. 
But numbers are unsatisfactory subjects for anthro- 
pomorphization, nor is it easy to read hidden messages 

162 



Reason in Physics and Biology 

between the lines of an addition sum. Consequently the 
human element is banished quite early in civilized his- 
tory from the mathematical field, and men arrive at 
conclusions which there is no reason for holding except 
that they are true. Even Aldous Huxley, so far as I 
know, has never been disposed to question the objective 
truth of mathematics, or to doubt that two and two 
make four, not because he wishes them to make four and 
has carefully chosen or cooked the evidence that favours 
this view, but because they do, because in fact the uni- 
verse is like that. 

Reason in Physics and Biology. Having acquitted itself 
with eminent success in mathematies, reason presently 
begins to invade other branches of human study, but 
more slowly and less surely. It is in the sciences which are 
remotest from human interests that the greatest mea- 
sure of objectivity has been achieved, in geology, in 
crystallography, in chemistry and, until recently, in 
physics. These are the sciences which deal pre-emin- 
ently with matter and the nature of matter. It was only 
when physics, having whittled matter away, passed into 
a kind of etheric vacuum beyond it, that human aspira- 
tions in the shape of mathematically minded deities, 
universal mind stuff and etheric bodies, returned to fill 
the vacuum. 

The nearer we come to the sphere of human interests, 
the greater the distance that separates us from objective 
truth. Biology is a science which, because in studying 
life as a whole it must needs include human life, re- 

163 



/. Reason and Truth 


mains still, so far as its implications are concerned, a 
field for conflicting theories rather than a field of ascer- 
tained facts. Biologists are continually being told that 
such and such is a degrading view to take, or that it is 
blasphemous, or that it is contrary to the truths of re- 
vealed religion. These admonitions distract them and 
cause them either to abandon the disliked view or to 
embrace it with crusading zeal. More recently they have 
been assured that to hold that life is an independent 
principle different in its intrinsic nature from matter, 
and that the living organism is not as a consequence 
adequately regarded as all body, is to make illegitimate 
concessions to human wishes. This view, they are told, 
is anthropomorphic, superstitious, sentimental, and in- 
troduces into science the unscientific myth of a mind in 
a machine. It is, they arc admonished, a typical vice of 
tender-mindedness to wish to think that the mind is 
other than the material body, the minds of their moni- 
tors being, it is presumed, so tough as to be nothing but 
brains; for, if wc are all body, our minds must, it is 
obvious, be our brains. 

These and similar admonitions have caused the 
opposing creeds of mechanism and vitalism to be em- 
braced and denied with emotional force, have ‘made the 
doctrine of creative evolution into a crusade and its 
denial a matter of laboratory honour. They are, it is 
obvious, at least in part emotional in origin, the ration- 
alizations of men’s wishes, hopes, defiances and fears, 
and they are responsible for the limited success of bio- 
logy compared with physics. It is because we want to 

164 



The Intrusion of Wishes in Psychology and Politics 

know about life so much more than we want to know 
about matter, that we know so much more about mat- 
ter. 

The Intrusion of Wishes in Psychology and Politics. To 
come still nearer home to psychology, is to find the 
sphere of objective truth still further diminished. 
Psychology is not strictly speaking a science at all; it is 
a battle ground of conflicting theories in which Mac- 
Dougall controverts with Watson, Spearman with 
Stout, while the followers of Jung, Freud and Adler 
carry on a three-cornered and peculiarly embittered 
contest of their own. When psychology does succeed in 
establishing a fact, which all agree to be a fact, it turns 
out to be a fact not about the mind but about the body; 
psychology, in fact, only becomes scientific at the cost 
of turning into physiology. For the rest it is, and seems 
likely to remain, a form of myth making, whereby men 
supply the place of knowledge by converting their con- 
jectures into dogmas, and then do battle on behalf of 
the dogmas. 

As for social psychology, political theory, sociology 
and the other sciences, or pseudo-sciences, which study 
the bcha'Viour of human beings in communities, the 
sciences of society, it is doubtful if even those who pro- 
fess them would wish to claim on their behalf that they 
have entered the province of agreed, established know- 
ledge. They arc a fruitful field for speculative theories, 
but they touch human interests so closely, the opinions 
which men hold in regard to them, for example, as to 

165 



/. Reason and Truth 


whether man was made for the State or the State for 
man, how much we may enjoy of liberty, how much we 
must concede to discipline, have such a direct and 
momentous bearing upon human weal and woe, that it 
is highly unlikely that for many years to come they will 
enter the privileged arena in which dispassionate reason 
discovers and dispenses objective truth. It is, indeed, 
unlikely that in our civilization they ever will, the lack 
of the exercise of this same dispassionate reason in the 
communal affairs of mankind bidding fair to bring it 
down in ruin and catastrophe, before the lack is sup- 
plied. Some things, I should have thought, were by this 
time fairly obvious; that some form of democracy is the 
only kind of government under which minorities may 
be assured of a reasonable measure of toleration, indi- 
viduals ofjustice, and that the State is an instrument for 
the development of the individual, not an altar for his 
sacrifice. But although these things are obvious to me, 
they seem to be diminishingly so to my contemporaries, 
and I may be premature in proclaiming the establish- 
ment of even these elementary truths. 

Objective Truth Attainable. The conclusion of the fore- 
going seems to be that reason can reach objective truth; 
or, more precisely, the implications that underlie the 
process I have briefly sketched, and the assumption 
which the distinction between superstition and science 
entails are that objective truth is at least humanly at- 
tainable. Now it is, of course, the case that human beings 
may be wrong to draw these implications, to make this 

1 66 



Objective Truth Attainable 

assumption. They may be wrong, that is to say, in hold- 
ing, as they undoubtedly do hold, that the methods of 
astronomy are scientifically fruitful and the conclusions 
of astronomers valid in some sense in which the methods 
and conclusions of astrology were neither fruitful nor 
valid, and that the judgment that three and two make 
five is true in some sense in which the judgments that 
the English arc the thirteen lost tribes of Israel, or that 
the great pyramid contains information as to the precise 
date and manner of the destruction of the world are 
not. Human minds may, I say, be wrong in drawing 
these implications and in making these assumptions; 
but it is certainly a fact that all intelligent human 
minds, including those of Huxley, Lawrence and Rich- 
ards, do draw them and do make them. 

And to make them is to make also by implication the 
admissions (a) that the human intellect can on occasion 
discover objective fact unbiassed by prejudice and un- 
distracted by desire; (b) that although it may begin by 
mistaking wishes for judgments and being the dupe of 
its hopes, the harder it tries and the more it develops, 
the more likely it is to reach conclusions in the forma- 
tion of which hopes and wishes have had no part; and 
(c) that it is possible sometimes to distinguish between 
those cases in which reason is functioning freely, and 
those in which it is a mere puppet twitched into the 
appropriate conclusions by instincts that pull the 
strings. I should wish to add a fourth conclusion, 
although it is more than doubtful whether the above- 
mentioned writers would be willing to subscribe to it, 

167 



I. Reason and Truth 

and, unlike the others, it does not follow from what has 
been said, namely, (d) that the emancipation of reason 
from the play of instinct and the pull of desire is a good, 
and that in the increase of this good lies the chief hope 
of our race. 

This fourth conclusion is, I say, less likely to win 
assent. It is not so much that it is inconsistent with the 
explicit pronouncements of Lawrence and Huxley, of 
whom the former would subordinate reason to the solar 
plexus and the latter submerge it in life as a whole; 
for, so far as concerns consistency, the other three con- 
clusions, which nobody in his senses would wish to 
deny, are equally at variance with some of their utter- 
ances. It is rather that in men’s hearts to-day there is, I 
believe, a deep-seated distrust of reason and a desire to 
see its operations curtailed. 

Reason the Prop of Social Justice. Yet apart altogether 
from theoretical considerations touching the advance 
of pure knowledge, as to whether it is a good or not that 
men should know things, the practical advantages ol 
the increasing application of reason to human affairs 
are universally acclaimed. Consider justice, for exam- 
ple. Justice is a word that covers a multitudc«of mean- 
ings; one of them is that an innocent man should not 
suffer for the fault of another. Hence it is a corollary of 
justice that no step should be left untaken to discover 
the guilty. I will now suppose that a criminal lunatic, 
or, if you prefer, a private enemy with a grudge of 
malice and a taste for sadism breaks into my house, 

168 



Reason the Prop of Social Justice 

assaults my wife and slits the stomach of my baby. As 
soon as I who, we will suppose, am writing at the bot- 
tom of the garden, hear screams, I rush into the house 
but am too late to catch the lunatic sadist. I rush out 
into the street and see a man running at a rapid 
pace down the road. I catch him up and threaten him 
with a revolver. Hands up’ I say and shout for the 
police, when my wife comes running up and tells me 
that this is the wrong man. Her assailant had lost the 
fore and little fingers of his right hand; the hands which 
arc now being held up are, she observes, intact. Now 
the fact that I am beside myself with anger and excite- 
ment, that my emotions are violently aroused, that in- 
stinct, the instinct for revenge, that desire, the desire to 
capture and to punish, dgminate my whole being, do 
not prevent my reason from operating to tell me that 1 
have made a mistake, with the result that I lower my 
revolver and apologize. I am sufficiently just not to wish 
that an innocent man should suffer for another’s crime, 
and it is my ability to reason that enables my sentiment 
of justice to take effect. Now nobody, so far as I am 
aware, thinks that it would be a good thing for me to 
attack the wrong man. I infer (a) that it is reason refus- 
ing to bo biassed by instinct or desire that refuses also to 
allow me to give way to either; (b) that it is regarded as 
a good thing that reason should have achieved this 
degree of emancipation. The point is, indeed, so obvious 
that it is incredible that it should be overlooked. Yet it 
is, I think, quite certainly the case that it is overlooked 
by the writers to whom I have referred, or, more pre- 

169 



I. Reason and Truth 


cisely, its neglect is a necessary corollary of the attitude 
to reason which they have both engendered and ex- 
pressed. Hence, though I hesitate to labour the point, 
I cannot deny myself the pleasure of asking them 
whether, when they have every reason to believe that 
X, whom they loathe, has ravished their wives, and they 
are, therefore, thirsting for the punishment, and, unless 
they are eccentrically humanitarian, for the strangula- 
tion by hanging of X, they would, nevertheless, refuse to 
listen to the arguments of the detective who, after an 
elaborate accumulation of evidence, finds himself in a 
position to demonstrate that the murderer was not in 
fact X but Y, Y being uncaught and not, therefore, in 
immediate danger of being hung. As good readers of 
detective stories, in which category I confidently include 
both Mr. Huxley and Mr. Richards, they would, I feel 
sure, find themselves constrained to bow to the exegesis 
of the demonstrating detective. In other words, in spite 
of the fact that their instincts were clamouring for ven- 
geance on X, they would obey the dictates of reason 
which pointed not to X but to Y. Why would they obey 
them? Only, so far as I can see, because of their implicit 
trust in the ability of reason, dispassionately considering 
evidence without regard to wishes, instincts or desires 
to reach objectively true conclusions. 

Emancipation of Reason a Good. Now, I suggest again 
that this emancipation of reason from the predisposing 
bias of non-rational factors, which has resulted in the 
establishment of impartial justice, is a good. I think 



Truth and Verifiability 

further that a similar emancipation of reason in other 
spheres would also be a good, and I contend that what 
has been achieved in logic and mathematics, is at least 
theoretically achievable in biology, psychology and 
sociology, and that it is the hope of achieving it that 
inspires the work of biologists, psychologists and sociolo- 
gists. 

Reason, emancipated from desire in mathematics 
has still, it is agreed, to achieve objectivity in psy- 
chology. Reason, which operates freely to reach just 
decisions in disputes between individuals, has still 
to achieve a similar objectivity in its application to 
disputes between nations. Already, indeed, it docs on 
occasion operate impartially even in this sphere,' but 
the communal will to implement its deliverances is 
lacking. Hence the advance, which took place when 
astrology became astronomy and alchemy chemistry, 
has still to be made from the law of the jungle, based 
upon fear and force, which still regulates international 
affairs, to the law of impartial justice administered by 
disinterested parties, which already prevails in disputes 
between individuals. 

Truth bnd Verifiability. There is a further application of 
these conclusions. The school of thought I have de- 
scribed is, as we have seen in previous essays, scornful 
of philosophy and religion. Both, it holds, are forms of 
wish fulfilment, projections of the desires of the human 

’ K.g. in the admirable pronouncements of the Bank for Inter- 
national Settlements or the International Labour Office. 



1. Reason and Truth 

heart or the fantasies of the human mind upon the 
empty canvas of the universe. Neither can claim truth. 
It is not my intention here to defend philosophy, which is 
later to be accorded a couple of chapters in its exclusive 
honour. It is sufficient for my purpose to point out that, 
if I am right in supposing that the achievement of 
objective truth by the human mind is at last possible in 
other spheres, there is no reason why it should be im- 
possible in those of philosophy and religion. 

The difference between astronomy or geology, let us 
say, and philosophy is not a difference between spheres 
in which truth is possible and achievable and a sphere 
in which it is not; it is a difference between spheres in 
which truth can be known to have been achieved and one 
in which no such knowledge is possible. The difference 
between the conclusions of science and of philosophy is, 
in a word, not one of truth but of verifiability. If I be- 
lieve that the attraction between two bodies varies in- 
versely with the square of the distance between them, I 
can by means of suitable apparatus establish the fact 
that my belief is correct. If I believe with Bradley that 
judgment is an act which ascribes an ideal content to 
reality, there is no available means of verification which 
will tell me whether my belief is correct or ndt. But it 
does not, therefore, follow that it cannot be correct; nor 
does it follow in the Ccise of judgments of value. 

If five people are asked to guess the temperature of a 
room, two things will happen: first, they will all guess 
differently; secondly, their estimates will be relative to 
and determined by subjective, physiological conditions 



Conclusions 


prevailing in themselves. It does not follow, however, 
that the room has not got a temperature. What is more, 
we can by using a thermometer find out what it is; we 
can also find out which of the guesses is nearest the 
truth. Similarly, if five people are asked to pronounce 
upon the aesthetic value of a picture, or a quartet, it is 
probable that all will estimate it differently; moreover, 
the varying estimates will be relative to and determined 
by subjective circumstances of training, environment 
and taste, that is, by the aesthetic experience, the age and 
culture of the judges. It docs not, therefore, follow either 
that the work of art has no aesthetic value in its own right, 
or that some of the judgments will not be nearer the 
mark than others. The only difference from the preced- 
ing instance is that in the jirescnt case there is no instru- 
ment analogous to the thermometer, by reference to 
which we can test the respective accuracies of the differ- 
ing judgments. It is for this reason that art criticism is a 
battle of ipse-dixitisms and that there is no disputing 
about anything but tastes. 

Conclusions. I conclude, then, first, that reason can 
sometimes reach results which are objectively and abso- 
lutely trhe. This is notably the case in the sphere of 
mathematics; it is frequently the case in that of the 
sciences; it is also the case in human affairs in the de- 
gree to which we are prepared to hang a man who is 
rich and respected by eminent persons in preference to 
one who is poor and a known Communist, merely be- 
cause the evidence shows that he and not the Com- 


173 



I. Reason and Truth 

munist committed the crime. Secondly, that this capacity 
of reason is in practice recognized by those whose doc- 
trine requires them to deny it, since they no more doubt 
that three and two make five and that a man ought to 
be and sometimes is hanged in accordance with evidence 
and not political prejudice or personal dislike, than I 
do. Thirdly, that we can trace as a historical process the 
spread of reason and its gradual invasion of new spheres. 
Fourthly, that in its success in bringing under its aegis 
spheres which have hitherto been the province of emo- 
tion and feeling lies the chief hope of the race. 


174 



Chapter VI 

Defence of Reason — II. Reason and Conduct 

★ 

Thinking as the Enemy oj Living. Huxley’s ideal of con- 
duct is, it is clear, the Greek. He sings the praises of a 
balanced living in which every side of man’s nature gets a 
square deal. ‘The art of life’, he reminds us, ‘consisted 
for them [the Greeks] irt, giving every god his due. 
These dues were various. Thus, Apollo’s due was very 
different from the debt a man owed to Dionysus . . . but 
everyone was owed, and, in its proper time and season, 
must be acknowledged. No god must be cheated and 
none overpaid.’ A man’s duty is, then, to acknowledge 
all the gods, to neglect none. Doing our duty we ‘make 
the best of the world and its loveliness while we can — at 
any rate during the years of youth and strength’. 

Now this ideal is, wc are explicitly told, incompatible 
with overmuch thinking. For reason, unless it is 
checked, will inhibit the use of the other faculties, prey- 
ing like a cancer upon the organism as a whole. And not 
only reason, but conscience, will, foresight — in fact all 
man’s most conscious and most lately evolved faculties. 
‘Circumstances’, Huxley complains, ‘have led humanity 


^75 



II. Reason and Conduct 


to set an ever-increasing premium on the conscious and 
intellectual comprehension of things. Modern man’s 
besetting temptation is to sacrifice his direct perceptions 
and spontaneous feelings to his reasoned reflections; to 
prefer in all circumstances the verdict of his intellect to 
that of his immediate intuitions. “L’homme est visible- 
ment fait pour penscr,” says Pascal; “e’est toute sa 
dignite, et tout son meritc et tout son devoir cst de 
penser comme il faut.” Noble words; but do they hap- 
pen to be true? Pascal seems to forget that man has some- 
thing else to do besides think: he must live.’ 

As I hinted in the preceding essay, the profounder 
answer to this view, the view that reason is the enemy of 
life and that it must, therefore, be chastened in the inter- 
ests of fuller living, lies in tlje affirmation of a positive 
metaphysic, the lines of which I shall endeavour briefly 
to indicate in two final chapters. My present business 
is that of examination and criticism which, meeting 
the Huxleyan philosophy at its own level of popular 
moralizing, seeks to challenge its adequacy on that 
level. 

Greek Life not Instinctive. Let us, then, accept, with the 
proviso that a profounder view may reveal grounds for 
qualifying our complete acceptance, the doctrine that 
the best life is the fullest. The word ‘fullest’ we will fur- 
ther interpret in Huxley’s sense — which is also for the 
greater part of his Ethics Aristotle’s sense — as denoting 
the completest development of all our faculties, the most 
various activity of every aspect of our being, instinctive 

176 



Greek Life not Instinctive 

as well as intellectual, unconscious as well as conscious. 

Can such a life be described as instinctive? Obviously 
it cannot. On the contrary, it can only be pursued by 
virtue of the continuous and unremitting vigilance of 
the practical reason. An analogy of Plato’s will help to 
demonstrate the point. He likens the human personality 
to a chariot drawn by a number of unruly horses. Each 
horse wants to follow a different course and tries to pull 
the chariot in a different direction from the other horses. 
Left to themselves, therefore, the divergent pulls of the 
horses would neutralize one another and bring the 
chariot to a standstill, or, if one horse were to prove 
suddenly stronger than the others, he would dash it to 
pieces against the first obstacle that stood in its way. At 
best the chariot would purstte a guideless, aimless course 
zigzagging hither and thither and failing to reach any 
specified goal. But in addition to the horses, there is, says 
Plato, the charioteer who holds the reins and controls 
and guides them. This he does, not by frustrating all the 
desires of all the horses, but by allowing to each one only 
so much of its way as is compatible with the humouring 
of the others. What in fact the charioteer does is to see 
fair play; and fair play means dovetailing the wills of 
the variods horses into some sort of unity, and directing 
the chariot along a line which is the resultant of all their 
separate pulls. This line the chariot can consistently 
maintain, and reach whatever objective it is aiming at. 
Thanks, then, to the charioteer, there is substituted for 
an aimless zigzag course, liable at any moment to the 
risk of sudden disaster, a consistent progress in a pre- 

»77 


M 



//. Reason and Conduct 

conceived direction. Read ‘separate desires and im- 
pulses’ for ‘horses’, and ‘reason’ for ‘charioteer’, and the 
analogy illustrates well enough the point I wish to bring 
out. 

And the point is this. If you are to have a full and 
reasonably balanced life, a life which assigns proper 
satisfaction to each of your various impulses apd desires, 
you must put reason in control. Now Huxley does at 
times betray a glimmering apprehension of this truth. 
In the concluding paragraphs of one of his books of 
essays, throughout the whole course of which the life of 
reason has been disparaged in the interests of life tout 
court, he concedes: ‘And yet the life worshipper is also, 
in his own way, a man of principles and consistency. To 
live intensely — that is his guiding principle. His diver- 
sity is a sign that he consistently tries to live up to his 
principles.’ But this admission gives the game away. 
For how is consistency to be achieved, how are princi- 
ples to be observed, except by the constant vigilance, the 
unremitting exercise of recison? To subject one’s im- 
pulses and desires to reason is not to frustrate them; it 
is merely to prevent any group of them from running 
away with you and denying satisfaction to the rest. 

The Calculated Restraint of Impulse. The point is so 
obvious that I hesitate to labour it. Yet it is also so 
frequently ignored that I must be pardoned, if I re- 
sort to one or two simple illustrations to drive it home. 
When I climb a mountain, I am continuously soli- 
cited by an impulse to turn round and look at the 

178 



Smoking 

view. Now experience has taught me that I get most 
enjoyment, if I restrain this impulse until I have reached 
the top. I then allow the view to break upon me in all its 
fullness, its freshness unimpaired by surrender to the 
temptation to contemplate its inadequate revelation. 
The impulse to enjoy the scenery is not frustrated by 
rationally imposed restraint; on the contrary, reason by 
guarding it against premature fulfilment, has secured its 
maximum satisfaction. 

Smoking. Like most male adults I have an impulse to 
smoke cigarettes. This impulse was not part of my 
initial equipment. As with most of our tastes that are 
both permanent and valuable, the taste for smoking is 
acquired. At first I smoked on princtple, the principle 
that it is always worth cultivating a new want in order 
to enjoy the pleasure of satisfying it. The want estab- 
lished, every cigarette w'as for a time a pleasure. 
Presently, however, the appetite for cigarettes, growing 
with what it fed on, began to demand more frequent 
satisfactions, so much so, that in course of time it came 
to dominate my youthful consciousness. By this time I 
was sensible of a definite feeling of discomfort whenever 
I was not smoking. Accordingly, I smoked the more in 
order to allay this feeling of discomfort. I did not now 
derive any po.sitive pleasure from smoking; I smoked as 
an unconscious habit to satisfy an ever-present need. 
The need grew ever more insistent, until I could not 
bear to be without a cigarette between my lips. At this 
point reason stepped in and insisted on being heard. 


179 



II. Reason and Conduct 


Reason pointed out that whereas previously I had 
smoked to get pleasure, I now smoked to allay discom- 
fort. The state of smoking was now hedonically neutral; 
it was neither pleasant nor painful; but the state of not 
smoking was definitely a pain. Thus I was expending an 
ever-increasing quantity of time, energy and money in 
order to derive an ever-diminishing quantity of satis- 
faction. By God’s grace I listened to reason. I do not 
now smoke cigarettes; I smoke the more easily regulated 
pipe. I smoke four pipes a day; rarely more, never less. 
Each is looked forward to with pleasure; each confers 
pleasure. My first pipe occurs after lunch, the others after 
dinner. There is no craving in the morning; there is no 
craving after tea. Thus not only is my pleasure as a 
whole sensibly hicreased, "but the desire to smoke, 
guided and controlled by reason, has been exploited in 
such a way as to confer its maximum of satisfaction. 

Bathing before Breakfast. I have an impulse to bathe 
before breakfast on a fine summer morning. It is an 
impulse which I find it difficult to resist. I have how- 
ever found by experience that, if I yield to it, my morn- 
ing’s work is ruined. I am hot-eyed and stupid at ten, 
desperately sleepy at eleven; by twelve I have' given up 
the struggle and subsided into a splenetic novel, prob- 
ably one of Huxley’s. If I resist the impulse and postpone 
my bathe until the middle of the afternoon, none of 
these things happens to me. My head remains clear; I do 
a reasonable morning’s work: I refrain from reading 
Aldous Huxley. What is more, I get a better bathe. In 

. i8o 



Drinking before Speech Making 

the early morning my vitality is low, my powers of 
enjoyment below par. Consequently, for all its apparent 
seduction, I always enjoy a bathe before breakfast less 
than I expect to. In the afternoon I invariably enjoy it 
more. 

Drinking before Speech Making. Before addressing a 
meeting I experience a strong impulse to have a drink. 
A glass of sherry, or, better still, a cocktail, will, I feel, 
remove nervousness and increase alertness; it will put a 
kick into my sentences, a polish on my style and a point 
into my witticisms. In fact it does none of these things. 
On the contrary it clouds my mind and addles my wits. 
I can’t think of the right things to say and I can’t think 
of the right words to say th«;m in. I c£in neither imagine 
facts with which to answer, nor devise anecdotes with 
which to divert, the awkward questioner. And, having 
learnt these things by bitter experience, I drink coffee 
before a speech and refrain from intoxicants until after- 
wards, when I enjoy them all the better for bringing to 
them an already excited mood. But I have no impulse to 
drink coffee. 

Reason Necessary for Enlightened Hedonism. There arc, no 
doubt, perfectly good physiological causes for these 
effects. To take a bathe on an empty stomach is to take 
exercise with a system unfortified by glucose and carbo- 
hydrates. Carbohydrates act as a screen to the proteins 
in the body, a buffer which stands between them and the 
full blast of its activity. Lacking the protection of the 

i8i 



II. Reason and Conduct 


carbohydrates, the proteins break down. In so doing 
they release acid into the blood stream, a circumstance 
which accounts for the faintness and fatigue felt by those 
who exercise unfed. 

Alcohol, it is well known, increases the reaction time 
of the nervous centres in the brain, slowing down their 
rate of vibration as one mutes the strings of a violin. 
And so on. . . . What do these physiological facts indi- 
cate? To put it brutally, that we often have impulses to 
do what is bad for us. How salutary, then, to check them 
by reason in the interests of one’s total good. And not 
only of one’s total good, but also of their own. I get 
more pleasure from the view, more enjoyment from 
my pipe; I have a better bathe, make a better speech, 
and get more kick, out of m^ subsequent drink, because 
reason has taught me not to obey the impulse to look at 
the view, to smoke, to bathe and to drink when it is first 
felt. Hence, to practise that very doctrine of hedonism 
that bids us make pleasure our end in order that we 
may derive the fullest and the most varied sensations 
from being alive, it is necessary to place reason in con- 
trol, since to check impulse by reason is often to increase 
one’s enjoyment of that for which the impulse is felt. 

Ability to reason accurately is, indeed, essential to 
living properly, for by accurate reasoning alone can 
we calculate our actions, so as to do what we intend 
to do; that is to fulfil our will. 

As it is with view appreciating and smoking and 
bathing and speech making, so it is with the more im- 
portant, the more clamant impulses. I have deliberately 

182 



Bishop Butler on Cool Self-Love 

taken instances of impulses which are neither very strong 
nor very primitive. To transfer the argument to the 
major impulses, the impulses to food and sex and self- 
preservation, is to reinforce its conclusion. To let one’s 
appetite for food run away with one is to become a 
gourmand, vainly trying to extract pleasure from new 
dishes with which one’s lack of appetite renders one 
increasingly critical. To obey every sexual impulse is to 
render oneself in the end incapable of sex satisfaction. 
To seek to preserve oneself by unprepared attack upon an 
enemy directly one sees him, or by flight directly he sees 
one, is to rush upon destruction. It is better to ambush 
before attacking; to turn suddenly at bay in the midst of 
apparently incontinent flight. 

Our race, in fact, owes^ such civilization as it has 
achieved to its ability to restrain its impulses, in order 
to secure their more effective gratification. The point I 
am making is, I repeat, so obvious that I feel compunc- 
tion in ramming it home. Rammed home, however, it 
must be, and unable any longer to tolerate the sight and 
sound of my own words conveying platitudes whose 
obvious truth, when first announced by Aristotle, should 
have precluded the need for their restatement once and 
for all, I propose to invoke Bishop Butler to be platitu- 
dinous for me. 

Bishop Butler on Cool Self-Love. Butler is an admirable 
psychologist, who almost succeeds in performing that 
most difficult of philosophical feats, the feat of making 
righteousness readable. The outstanding feature of his 

183 



II. Reason and Conduct 

ethics is the distinction between the separate self- 
regarding impulses, Plato’s chariot horses, and what he 
calls ‘cool self-love’. Cool self-love is a man’s general 
desire for the good of the whole, that is for his good as a 
whole. It is cool self-love which prompts a man to seek 
his own maximum happiness over the whole course of 
his life. If the object of self-love is happiness, that of the 
particular passions is far otherwise. In the case of hunger 
or of avarice it is easy to sec that this is so. But just as the 
object of hunger is food, and of avarice wealth, so the 
object of boasting — and who shall deny the impulse to 
boast? — is to increase the estimation in which one is held 
by one’s hearers, of malice to do somebody an injury, of 
anger to do anybody or anything an injury, even if it is 
only the furniture- ^ 

Now it is pretty clear that many of the particular 
passions and impulses conflict with cool self-love. Al- 
though my object in boasting is to cause others to fear or 
to admire me, in fact my boasts usually evoke the 
opposite sentiments, a result which in course of time 
becomes so patently, so regrettably clear, that most of us 
cease to boast except when drunk, drunkenness being a 
condition in which the inhibitions imposed by cool self- 
love upon the various impulses and passions are weak- 
ened. If I break the furniture in a rage, it is almost cer- 
tain that I shall have to pay for it afterwards; if in a 
passion of instinctive repugnance I bash the face of a 
sandy-haired man wearing a panama hat, I shall almost 
certainly be summoned for assault. Cool self-love is, 
then, not only different from but frequently antagonistic 

184 



Social Desirability of Enlightened Selfishness 

to the particular passions. When such antagonism arises, 
the victory of cool self-love is likely to increase one’s 
total happiness. 

Sotial Desirability of Enlightened Selfishness. And not only 
one’s own total happiness, but that of the world. If 
people were to act consistently according to the dictates 
of self-love, their actions would not, Butler points out, be 
very different from those which they would perform, if 
ihey acted consistently from the principle of benevolence. 
By acting in such a way as to promote our own real 
good, we almost always promote the good of others, and 
vice versa. When we believe that we shall do good to 
ourselves by harming others, it will be found that the 
belief is almost always fal^e. » 

It is this belief that u.sually accompanies the indul- 
gence of the particular passions. Indulging the passion 
for vengeance, we inflict financial ruin or gross physical 
suffering on somebody we believe to have done us an 
injury. But, even if we escape the normal penalties of 
violence by squaring the police, or contriving to live 
under a dictatorship which confers upon its supporters 
the prerogative of taking vengeance with impunity upon 
those whom they conceive to have ‘wronged’ them by 
venturing to disagree with their opinions, the personal 
gratifications of vengeance are notoriously unsatisfying. 
I say ‘notoriously’ because, owing to a preponderance 
of cool self-love, I cannot remember myself to have 
taken vengeance upon anybody in recent years. I ac- 
cordingly accept the opinion of poets and moralists and 

J85 



11. Reason and Conduct 

the testimony of most murderers and torturers, which is 
almost unanimous on the subject. 

Similarly with regard to malice, which may be de- 
scribed as a disinterested desire for somebody else’s dis- 
comfiture. The policy pursued by France towards Ger- 
many in the years immediately succeeding the war 
owed its inspiration in almost equal degrees to malice 
and the desire for vengeance. The results show how 
much better it would have been for the French to have 
been guided by cool self-love. Germany, maddened by 
the rejection of all her overtures for a sympathetic 
understanding and outraged by the continual breaking 
on the part of others of pledges which she had been com- 
pelled to observe, has developed a militant intransig- 
ence which the F^rench do j’ight to fear. But having 
deliberately maddened Germany over a period of years, 
it is a little disingenuous, to say the least of it, on the 
part of her tormentors to complain because they discern 
foam on her lips. If the French had pursued a policy of 
enlightened self-interest, instead of acting from mingled 
motives of malice, vengeance and fear, not only they and 
the Germans but the Western world as a whole would 
now be calmer, saner and happier. 

In general I believe it to be the case that those actions 
which are the most hurtful to others, are never those 
which a man who aimed at the maximum happiness for 
himself would perform. The contrary is also true. If men 
acted rationally, that is to say, in the way which was 
most likely to bring about the ends they desire, Utopia 
would be realized. But most men are actuated by im- 

i86 



Subordination of Impulses to Cool Self-Love 

pulses and passions which cloud their judgment and 
persuade them that by injuring those whom they fear 
or dislike they will advantage themselves. It is one of the 
paradoxes of human conduct that men do not, as a 
general rule, act in a way which is calculated to advance 
their own interest from rational motives, although self- 
interest is one of the objects of rational desire. It is only 
when they are actuated by generous motives, which as 
a rule are indifferent to their own interest, that they in 
fact advance it. The paradox arises from the fact that 
those actions which are likely to promote the maximum 
happiness of the self are usually identical with those 
which will be likely to benefit others; or, as Butler 
would say, actions dictated respectively by the prompt- 
ings of cool self-love and Ijencvolen^: tend to be iden- 
tical, a fact which may or may not be evidence for the 
conclusions that God exists, that He created the world, 
that there is an underlying harmony in things, and that 
human society, in spite of all the evidence to the con- 
trary, is founded on ethical principles. 

Subordination of Impulses to Cool Self-Love. This much at 
least seems to be fairly certain, that it is in the domina- 
tion of the various impulses and passions by cool self- 
love that the chief hope of happiness for the individual 
lies. In other words, the happy life is not the instinctive 
life, in which without rule or principle, system or plan, 
we gratify each and every aspect of our personality, as it 
happens to come uppermost at the moment, but a life 
in which the various passions are duly subordinated to 

187 



II. Reason and Conduct 


rational control in the interests of coherent and pur- 
posive living. Now coherent and purposive living will 
include among its objects, although it will not acknow- 
ledge as its only object, the achievement of the maxi- 
mum possible happiness for the individual. 

The preceding analysis, for the length of which I 
apologize, has been undertaken in the interests of the 
practical reason. It has been my object to show that, so 
far from being hostile to life, as Huxley avers, the prac- 
tical reason enables us to live it more fully; that so far 
from being the enemy of the passions, it guarantees their 
fulfilment. But it can do this, only if it restrains them. 
The function of reason in this connection is twofold. It 
must keep the ring in the interests of all the passions, 
and must from timf to time (jhastise each of them in the 
interests of itself. It must, that is to say, restrain passion 
A, both in order to give fair play to passions B, G and D; 
and also because, by ttiking the bit between its teeth, 
passion A may, like a runaway horse, become the enemy 
of its own gratification. 

Fallacy of ‘ The Good Time’. No passion, it is obvious, 
can be gratified all the time; what is not perhaps so 
obvious is that it must not in its own interests be grati- 
fied as often as it demands. We cannot, in fact, feast 
unless we are prepared also to fast. That this should be 
so may be, no doubt is, regrettable; but the boredom of 
the sensualist, the drugtaker and the pleasure addict 
proves to demonstration that it is so. One of the great 
catches of life, in short, is that unrestricted hedonism 

1 88 



Definition of the Rational Man 

does not work. Huxley knows this well enough; nobody, 
in fact, has exposed more devastatingly the wretchedness 
of the perpetual ‘good time’. What he does not seem to 
realize is that the practical outcome of his vendetta 
against the practical reason as the guide and chastener 
of the passions, is to leave us with no alternative to the 
‘good time’. 

Definition oj the Rational Man. In general a rational man 
may be defined as one who allows himself to be in- 
fluenced by considerations which are not immediately 
relevant. The definition refers only to reason in its rela- 
tion to conduct, and in relation to conduct the role it 
assigns to reason is such as man’s evolutionary history 
would lead us to expect. IV)r in whift respect docs man 
chiefly differ from the animals? In respect of his ability 
to be stimulated to activity by objects not immediately 
present to his senses. The dog is stimulated by present 
smells, scarcely, if at all, by the remembrance of past 
ones; the cat knows only that fish is not now in the cup- 
board; he cannot comfort himself with the thought that 
to-morrow is Friday. Now man, unlike the dog and the 
cat, possesses the faculty of imagination. He can think 
of objects and events with which he has no immediate 
physical relation, of objects remote in space, of events 
remote in time. His activity here and now may be, and 
often is, determined by reference to such objects. It is 
precisely because of this ability to enter into cognitive 
relations with the not sensuously present, that man has 
been able to evolve art, science, mathematics, politics, 

189 



II. Reason and Conduct 


government. And not unnaturally he prides himself 
upon it, knowing it to be the distinguishing character- 
istic of his species. 

It is not, then, matter for surprise that the possession 
of a greater or less degree of this ability should chiefly 
differentiate men from men. The more of it we possess, 
the more completely human do we become. My children 
dislike going to bed because, sensible only of the plea- 
sure of to-night, they forget to-morrow’s fatigue. I, more 
rational, point out that we have a long journey in front 
of us, and that unless we want to be wretched all day, 
we had better go to bed now. My advice takes account 
of considerations not immediately relevant; it exhibits 
me, therefore, as more rational than my children. It is 
also in the long ruli more productive of pleasure. In fact 
the main reason why the rational man permits himself 
to be influenced by factors not present to his senses, is his 
discovery that by this method he will derive from life 
the maximum pleasure. Perpetually, therefore, he takes 
thought for to-morrow, and forgoes some of the more 
obvious satisfactions of the moment in the interests of 
greater satisfaction to come. The man who resists an 
offer of good port after lunch because he knows that he 
will have to use his brains in the afternoon, the man who 
in spite of strong provocation remains sexually abstinent 
on the night preceding a tennis match, the boat race or 
an ascent of Mount Everest, the man who, fearing sleep- 
lessness, resists his curiosity to open an important letter 
at night knowing that he will bring to it a fresher and 
less excitable mind in the morning; even the Christian 



The Intellect too has its Claims 

who forgoes the more obvious pleasures now, and de- 
liberately submits to a little wholesome boredom on 
Sundays in the belief that by forgoing and submitting he 
will enjoy more quintessential pleasures in perpetuity 
hereafter — all these are employing reason in order to 
secure for themselves the opportunity for fuller and more 
varied living, although the last would do well to scrutin- 
ize closely the credentials of the belief, on the basis of 
which alone his somewhat hazardous restraints arc 
justified. (How sold he would be, if he found that there 
was no hereafter, or that the qualifications so laboriously 
acquired were the wrong ones.) 

The Intellect too has its CAaims. Two subsidiary matters 
remain, and my defence L» finished .•We are, it will be 
remembered, bidden by Huxley to develop every side 
of our being, to live out to the full extent of all our 
faculties. We must not, he warns us, allow our lives to be 
ridden by the hag consistency; for life is not consistent. 
We are not one man, but many; not a personal unit, but 
a bundle of persons. Very well, then, he concludes, let 
us live as variously as our natures are various; let us be 
ascetics to-day, sensualists to-morrow; let us be students 
in the morning, rakes in the evening; let us worship God 
on Sunday and Mammon all the week. Let us, in fact, 
‘give every God his due’. 

So be it! But is not Athena also a God, or rather a 
Goddess? Do not men among their other faculties also 
possess reason, possess it, indeed, so thoroughly that to 
reason is with many of us, including Huxley himself. 



//. Reason and Conduct 

second nature. Consider, for example, that human 
activity known as the disinterested pursuit of knowledge 
for its own sake. Men strive with little prospect of suc- 
cess to comprehend the nature of the universe as a 
whole; they strive with little hope of reward to find out 
how it works in detail. Many men, and they are not by 
the suffrages of their kind deemed the most ignoble, have 
given their lives to these pursuits. Why? One may an- 
swer, if one is addicted to the terminology of impuke, 
because they are impelled by the impulse of curiosity; 
or, if you prefer it, by the impulse to reason. I suspect 
that we are but playing with words here. The precise 
psychological machinery that we invoke to account for 
the fact that we positively do use our reasons for their 
own sweet sakes, is unimportant. The fact is that we do 
perpetually so use them without any inducement of 
money or fame or material reward, for the sheer fun of 
the thing. And the more civilized we are, the more we 
are apt to do it; the more, that is to say, we are apt to 
employ our reasons about matters which do not directly 
concern us. Culture, indeed, is, I have suggested, 
essentially a preoccupation with matters which do not 
directly concern us and cannot possibly conduce to our 
advantage. Why, then, in the interests of the full and 
'Varied life which Huxley commends, should we forgo the 
exercise of this disinterested activity which is, to put it 
at its lowest, by no means the least interesting of our 
faculties? 

But it is not only in the pursuit of abstract knowledge 
that the disinterested reason is exercised. Men have, and 


192 



Exciting Lives of the Philosophers 

women have especially, a disposition disinterestedly to 
observe their neighbours; they catalogue and comment 
upon their idiosyncrasies and base generalizations with 
regard to the species as a whole upon the behaviour of 
the specimens catalogued. Huxley excells at this acti- 
vity; it constitutes, indeed, if we are to judge from his 
writings, the major interest of his life. Yet it is an acti- 
vity pre-eminently rational. 

The activity of reason, in fact, is not only an integral 
part of full and various living. It becomes, as man 
grows more civilized, a necessary part. Why deny the 
fact, or why, if you admit it, deplore it? 

Exciting Lives of the Philosophers. Secondly, I would ask, 
is it in any sense true that t^jose who iave lived what is 
popularly known as the life of the mind, have been 
guilty of the passional, emotional and aesthetic starva- 
tion which Huxley castigates? Applied to the lives of 
some of the great philosophers of the past, there may be 
some substance in his charge. Kant, for example, ap- 
pears to have erected the terrific edifice of his moral 
philosophy upon a very exiguous foundation of moral 
experience; should he, or should he not permit himself 
another sweet cake at tea? He never could decide the 
point satisfactorily. The temptation was great, but he 
was growing fat and the indulgence was, he knew, not 
good for him. From the moral struggles that ensued the 
Categorical Imperative was born. Kant, then, affords a 
possible example of the life atrophied by intellect. But in 
this as in otherrespectshe was an exceptional philosopher. 
N 193 



II. Reason and Conduct 


In point of varied and exciting experience the lives of 
most of the great philosophers put those of my students, 
who casually cite the ‘mutilated’ existences of great 
thinkers as testimonies to the atrophying effects of the 
intellect, completely in the shade. Socrates being mur- 
dred; Plato trying to bring up a young tyrant at Syra- 
cuse and getting sacked for his pains; Aristotle tutoring 
^\lexander the Great; Spinoza being expelled from the 
Jewish community for atheism; Hume acting as secre- 
tary to the English Ambassador to France and becom- 
ing the lion of eighteenth-century Parisian society; Des- 
cartes serving as a soldier in the Low Countries, fight- 
ing for the Duke of Bavaria on the Danube, getting into 
trouble with the Church for the Discourse on Method, 
going for years in, terror of Jhe fate of Galileo, and fin- 
ally dying of inflammation of the lungs through getting 
up at five in the morning to teach the Queen of Sweden 
philosophy, lived lives which for sheer interest and ex- 
citement exhibit the existences of a clerk, a University 
undergraduate or an Aldous Huxley as cowlike brows- 
ings in the meadows of vapid uneventfulness. 

'Intellectuals' as Bad Mixers and Bad Consumers. So much 
for the great philosophers. Consider next the' contem- 
porary ‘intellectual’. He is distinguished by two negative 
characteristics, both of which Huxley is careful to point 
out. First, he shares Huxley’s horror of ‘the good time’. 
He does not listen to ‘crooners’, respond with sympathy 
to the sounds proceeding from American larynxes at 
the ‘talkies’, indulge in the stilted perambulations 

194 



‘Intellectuals’ as Bad Mixers and Bad Consumers 

slightly impeded by a member of the opposite sex which 
is known as modern dancing. He does not go to see 
horses competing at Ascot, or men perfecting themselves 
in the contemporary arts of efficient killing by dropping 
bombs from aeroplanes at Hendon, or reproducing 
those of the past by charging on horses at the Aldershot 
tattoo. He does not rotate on roundabouts on Hamp- 
stead Heath on Bank Holidays, or lounge moodily or 
hilariously on the beach at Margate or Blackpool. In 
short, he goes his own way and avoids the crowd. 

Secondly, he is, as I have already noted, an extra- 
ordinari'y bad consumer: he does not need a wireless; 
he is content not to possess a car; he is not ‘maty’, and 
does not, therefore, spend his evenings swapping drinks 
with cronies in a pub. He is,generall^bad at games, and 
has been so firmly ‘conditioned’ against them by his ex- 
periences at a public school, that he has lost any inclina- 
tion he might have had to identify the good life with the 
whacking of round bits of matter with long thin ones; 
he tends accordingly to be without bats, mallets, rac- 
quets, clubs, hockey sticks or cues. He is congenitally in- 
capable of operating gadgets and, because ot the feeling 
of inferiority his incapacity gives him, refuses to possess 
them. He does not take delight in his clothes, bedew 
himself with hair oil, or attach to his fingers, ties or cuffs 
pieces of shining stone and metal. He has a simple tooth- 
paste and does not change it; and, as often as not, he 
grows a beard and does not shave. Hence, as Huxley has 
himself suggested, the deliberate modern cult of 
‘lowbrowism’ as a direct reprisal on the part of pro 


»95 



II. Reason and Conduct 

ducers for the low ‘highbrow’ consumption of goods. 


Pursuits and Praise of the '^Intellectual'. What, then, is the 
‘highbrow’ doing when he is resisting the blandishments 
of jazz, failing to drive in cars, to own vacuum cleaners 
or to thrill at the ‘movies’? He is reading, or walking in 
the country; that is to say his consumption is limited to 
shoe-leather, books and beer; in extreme cases he is on 
his back content with ‘a green thought in a green 
shade’, that is to say, he is not consuming at all. Fur- 
ther, he may bathe, climb — ^he is given to climbing — 
ride horses, a pursuit to which when reasonably well off 
he has recently become addicted, skate, ski, travel, ex- 
plore, play chess. If, in spite of his public school train- 
ing, he can still tolerate games, he will be found playing 
them rather than watching them. 

Pursuits and Dispraise of the 'Lowbrow'. Now compare 
these pursuits by and large with the pursuits of the'low- 
brow’. While the former involve a more or less continu- 
ous expenditure of energy, skill and intelligence, the 
latter are creation saving, energy economizing, thought 
atrophying. They demand no effort, no exelrcise, no 
talent; summon no faculty of mind or body to its full 
activity. Untrained and undeveloped, slack and fat, 
sleepy and bored, the ‘lowbrows’ ride in cars, sit in 
cafes and cinemas, drink in pubs, lounge on beaches, 
‘enjoying’ the standardized pleasures which it pays 
i somebody to provide for them. 

196 



The ‘ IntellectuaV Returns to Nature 

With senses alert, with nerves taut, vwth every fibre 
of their physical being quivering with excited life, the 
‘highbrows’ climb, ride, ski, yacht, explore deserts, dis- 
cover planets or split atoms. Reading poetry, enjoying 
a sunset, enraptured by a view, savouring the smells of 
dawn on a spring morning or of dusk on an autumn 
evening, or listening with all the passion of the respond- 
ing soul to the music of Bach, they cultivate the arduous 
joys of the spirit. Playing chess, reading philosophy, 
maintaining a thesis, pleading a cause, following or 
joining in cultivated talk, they exercise the mind. To 
whom, then, arc we to give the palm for full and varied 
living so justly praised by Huxley? The answer is clear: 
it must be to the ‘intellectual’, to the man who, refusing 
to yield up all his being to tlje impulses of the moment or 
to allow his tastes and pursuits to be dictated by the 
purveyors of consumable goods, determines his life by a 
reasoned appraisement of the things that seem to him 
to be good. 

The TnlellectuaV Returns to JVature. Even by those quaint 
Lawrencian standards, the submerging of the spirit in 
the dark heart of things, the vibrating in harmony with 
the rhythms of the universe, the pulsing with the beats 
of cosmic being, the drawing of strength and inspiration 
from the fount of nature — even by these standards 
(always assuming that these expressions of Lawrence’s 
have some meaning, and that the only conceivable 
meaning that I can think of for them is the sort of mean- 
ing Lawrence intended them to bear) the ‘intellectual’ 


197 



11. Reason and Conduct 

gets marks; indeed, he tops the whole class of his con - 
temporaries. 

In the modern world it is the ‘intellectual who camps, 
hikes, sleeps out of doors, goes for midnight tramps, 
gazes at sunsets and the stars, feeds on grass and vege- 
tables. It is also the intellectual who, having deliberately 
inflamed his imagination by the reading of poetry, 
burns as a youth with romantic love, as a young man in 
Bloomsbury or Chelsea enjoys his succession of mis- 
tresses, and even in middle age indulges in occasional 
extra-marital ‘affairs’ with more facility and gusto and 
far less shame and compunction than his ‘lowbrow’ 
contemporary smirking and guffawing over his dirty 
stories in the club smoking-room. Whether this com- 
muning with natu^, this ricjier and more varied sex life 
are to the point, I do not know. The trouble with ‘life 
worship’ is that it is so difficult to reduce to concrete 
terms, so hard to find out precisely what it ‘comes to’ in 
practice. But I take it that, at least in Lawrence’s view, 
‘the great, dark blood stream’ which surges in the 
abdomen and the guts demands an outlet through the 
channels of sex. It is, indeed, from the loins that, the 
‘deep gusts’ of the spirit chiefly blow, if one may judge 
from Lawrence’s own works, and a proper outlet for 
these gusts would, accordingly, seem to require a sub- 
stantial degree of varied and passionate sex life. I con- 
clude, therefore, that even from this point of view, the 
intellectual, that is to say the man who finds in the 
arts and the sciences, philosophy, mathematics, socio- 
logy or even politics his main interest and activity and, 

198 



Leisure of ‘Intellectuals’ and of Business Men 

while functioning primarily on the intellectual plane, is 
yet notoriously lax in his morals, gets marks over his 
‘lowbrow’ competitor. 

Leisure of ‘Intellectuals' and of Business Men. When I 
compare the way in which I am spending my leisure 

this hot summer at , reading and writing all 

the morning, sleeping after lunch, playing tennis or 
sometimes cricket in the afternoon, bathing in the 
Arun, fishing for pike from a punt on the lake or riding 
on the downs in the cool of the evening, bathing perhaps 
again by moonlight and rounding off the day by singing 
in chorus in the inn or a little poetry read aloud before 
bed — when, I say, 1 compare the activities of an average 
intellectual trying to enjo^ his holktiy and succeeding, 
with those of the average business or professional man 
whom I see lounging on the beach at Littlchampton, 
riding on a switchback, watching games that he never 
plays, listening to songs he docs not sing, betting on 
horses that lie never rides, going in the evening with his 
wife to the cinema to smack his lips over the female beauty 
that he never enjoys, drinking whiskies in the lounge of a 
hotel, sitting hour after hour at contract bridge, dancing 
a little and then again drinking, having in fact gloriously 
but determinedly ‘a good time’, it seems to me that, 
judged by the very standards which Huxley, Lawrence 
and the anti-intcllcctualist school set up, it is I who am 
living the right life, the business man who lives the 
wrong one. 

Yet, if my way of life were to win the Huxley-Law- 

199 



II. Reason and Conduct 

rence prize, as I hope it may, I cannot forbear to point 
out that its conduct depends largely upon the constant 
operation of two factors, at both of which the examiners 
look askance. First, the whole of my morning is dedi- 
cated shamelessly to the uses of the intellect. Until 
lunch time I read and write philosophy, and I do this 
in pursuance of a quite deliberate plan. I find that work 
is the only occupation I can stand in any but the smallest 
of doses, and that, if I give up the whole of my day to 
amusing myself, even if my amusements are of the ap- 
proved Huxley-Lawrence type, I only succeed in boring 
myself. Secondly, the activities of the rest of the day are 
carefully planned and deliberately varied on two 
principles. First, I consider some activities such as the 
reading of poetry* the singyg of songs and the enjoy- 
ment of nature, to be good in themselves.' They are, 
therefore, followed for their own sake. Secondly, I agree 
with Huxley that I must try to give every side of my 
nature a fair show. I must, that is to say, employ as 
many of my faculties as possible and vary their employ- 
ment as much as possible. Now both these are principles 
laid down for me by reason. 

' The sense in which I use ‘good in themselves’ was explained 
in a previous chapter. See pages 68, 69. ‘ 


200 



Chapter VII 


Pefence of Philosophy — I. Philosophy and 
Life 


Reason having, I trust, been vindicated, I come at 
last to my official defence of philosophy. That philo- 
sophy has an important effect upon life I am convinced. 
This effect is, however, not a direct one, nor is it one 
which it is easy to describe. , 

By saying that the effect of philosophy is not direct, I 
mean that, unlike religion, philosophy does not exhort 
us to lead one kind of life rather than another; it has, in 
other words, no specific message. It is, nevertheless, a 
fact that one who has been engaged in the study of 
philosophical problems for a period of, say, two or three 
years, will find that his outlook on life is profoundly dif- 
ferent from what it was when the study began. The differ- 
ence, however, will have no very obvious relation to the 
problems studied, nor is it easy to say in what it consists. 
I want, nevertheless, in this chapter to try to indicate 
as briefly as I can what sort of effect philosophy has 
upon those who study it, why it is valuable and how it 
is produced. 

Unfounded Claims for Philosophy. It will be well 


201 



I. Philosophy and Life 

to begin by specifying the things that philosophy 
will not do for us, in order that we may not be led 
to entertain false expectations of the benefits that 
attend its study. Philosophy will not help us to enlarge 
our incomes, to become social successes, to increase the 
effectiveness of our personalities, or our popularity 
among our friends. It may even do the reverse of these 
things. And, since most people to-day assess the value of 
a study by the standard of its concrete results in terms of 
worldly success, philosophy tends to be under a cloud. 
Threatened on one side by the spread of popular science 
and on the other by the encroachments of psychology, it 
stands low in popular favour, and tends to be impatiently 
dismissed as an idle exercise in word spinning. In par- 
ticular it is said tlvt philosqohy has no relationship to 
life, and that it has arrived at no definite and generally 
agreed results. 

Let us consider each of these charges separately. If by 
the first is meant that philosophy does not solve for us 
the practical problems of everyday existence, the charge 
must be admitted. If life is an art, philosophers are not 
its artists, nor does the study of philosophy confer a 
knowledge of its technique. If life be regarded as a chess 
problem, philosophy does not provide a ready-made 
solution; while, in so far as philo.sophers have claimed 
that the study of their works fitted the student for the 
business of life,, the claim is largely unfounded. That a 
knowledge of philosophy does not directly affect the 
business of living, an observation of philosophers will 
readily prove. The political philosopher is not noticeably 


202 



In what sense a ‘Good’? 


better either as a citizen or as a statesman than his 
neighbour. The metaphysician cannot provide an 
agreed and demonstrably correct answer to the ques- 
tions, how the universe started, whether it works 
mechanically, whether there is a God, or whether there 
is matter. The morals of the ethical philosopher are not 
markedly superior to those of the plain man. In par- 
ticular he is not necessarily remarkable for what is 
known as the ‘philosophic temperament’. He is no more 
serene and he is not better tempered than the man in 
the street, being just as likely to betray ill temper when 
he breaks a bootlace, or to swear when he misses his 
treun. A knowledge of all the ethical systems that have 
been propounded since man began to moralize will not 
make the philosopher a gpod man» and thinking will 
certainly not make him a happy one. It is even possible 
that happiness and knowledge may be in some ways 
incompatible, so that we arc still to-day faced with the 
choice, which the Greeks propounded long ago, between 
a happy pig or an unhappy Socrates. This fact need not, 
however, cause distress, since the question whether 
happiness is the only thing which is desirable is itself a 
philosophical question, capable of being answered in 
different ways. 

In what sense a ‘Good’? The result is that when the lec- 
turer on philosophy is faced with the inevitable ques- 
tion, ‘What’s the good of it?’ he is reluctantly compelled 
to admit that, unlike psycho-analysis, which enables you 
to diagnose the foibles of your friends, or literature, 


203 



I. Philosophy and Life 

which provides you with suitable topics for intellectual 
conversation, or science, which enables you to ride in a 
motor cai;, philosophy has no direct value. 

And, let "us be frank about it, this is a severe criticism. 
Our age, governed pre-eminently by the stomach and 
p>ocket view of life, demands of whatever is proffered for 
its approval that it shall deliver ‘the goods’. Hence non- 
vocational education, education that is to say which 
docs not confer any specifiable advantage in the struggle 
for existence, is regarded with disfavour. In the newer 
Universities of America, for example, the so-called 
practical subjects, engineering, agriculture, or medicine, 
arc e.xclusivcly studied, while pure mathematics, philos- 
ophy, and even history are neglected. Something of the 
same attitude is spreading tij the older American Uni- 
versities, and it would require more hardihood than I, 
for one, can command to maintain that the same ten- 
dency is not perceptible here. After all, we say, we pay 
for education, and we demand in return that it should 
pay us. 

That this is a just demand I should be the last to deny; 
but it is important that we should not unduly restrict 
the notion of what constitutes payment. Bread and but- 
ter and a good position in the world are certainly pay- 
ment. But what of the capacity for clear thinking, the 
sympathy and tolerance that come from a lively under- 
standing of the views and difficulties of others, and the 
habit of disinterested intellectual inquiry? Do these not 
add to the fullness and richness of our lives? The modern 
world answers on the whole that they do not. And here 

204 



Absence of Results 

philosophy steps in to take up the challenge which 
this answer implies, one of the most important of the 
incidental effects of philosophy being to call in question 
the whole scale of values upon which the conventional 
attitude is based. What, the philosopher will ask, is 
the point of achieving a good position in life, if you have 
no conception of right living when you have achieved 
it? And he may then proceed to point out that right 
living embraces just those non-material goods which 
philosophy seeks to realize, in the absence of which 
even the most materially successful life may be said 
to have failed. Thus the study of philosophy may cause 
us to renounce the very standards by which philo- 
sophy is condemned. But this is to anticipate. 

■» » 

Absence of Results. I turn to the second count in the 
indictment, that; unlike science, philosophy presents 
us with no definite results. If by definite results is 
meant a complete set of agreed answers to all the 
questions that have puzzled mankind since speculation 
began, it must be admitted that philosophy has none 
to .show. The philosopher, instead of building upon 
the foundations laid by his predecessor, spends much 
of his ehergy in criticizing those who have gone before, 
disputing their hypotheses and throwing doubt on their 
conclusions. There is no one philosophy to which all 
philosophers will agree, as there is, for example, one 
multiplication table to which all mathematicians agree. 
Many of the disputes of philosophers are, moreover, 
disputes about what exactly it is that they are disputing 


205 



I. Philosophy and Life 

about. Hence arises the gibe that a philosopher is like 
a blind man looking in a dark room for a black cat 
that isn’t there. 

Having now frankly stated the charges against philo- 
sophy, and pointed out the respects in which they are 
well grounded, let us see what answer philosophy has 
to make in her defence. In the first place, the charge 
that philosophy arrives at no definite conclusions, 
though true in a sense, is true only in a highly Pick- 
wickian one. All the sciences started life as philosophy. 
Astronomy, mathematics, biology and physics were 
branches of philosophy in the time of the Greeks, and, 
for so long as they were purely speculative in character, 
philosophy they remained. So soon,however, as anything 
definite came to knowneabout them, they seceded 
from philosophy and became separate sciences in their 
own right. Philosophy is thus in the unfortunate position 
of a schoolmaster, who loses his pupils directly they 
show promise. 

Definite knowledge has no place in philosophy, 
and it is in this aloofness from brute fact that men 
have found much of its charm. Let us assume for a 
moment that philosophy is entirely inconclusive, 
and never does and never can increase the 'stock of 
our information about the universe. Is it, there- 
fore, valuelcs.s? If we put philosophy at the very 
lowest valuation, and admit the very worst that 
has been said of it, it becomes a kind of game. The 
game is that of discovering the reasons for what we 
wish to believe upon instinct; yet to find these reasons 

206 



The Widening of the Common-sense World 

is none the less an instinct. It is the instinct ofintellcctual 
curiosity, and it is an instinct which only philosophy 
can fully satisfy. It is admitted that the body requires 
exercise to keep it in condition, and football, boxing, 
and gymnastics are praised even by utilitarians. Bill 
the mind requires exercise just as much as the body, 
and philosophy, which is the gymnastics of the mind, 
is the pursuit which above all others spring-cleans the 
mind and keeps it in training. This is done by argu- 
ment and dialectic. Argument can be amusing, and 
there is no argument like a philosophical argument. 
Its very inconclusiveness is its fascination. Every argu- 
ment about facts comes to an abrupt termination when 
the facts are known. If you have an argument with a 
man about the time at whi^h a traiij leaves London for 
Newcastle, there will always come a stage at which 
someone will fetch the time-table and look it up. When 
this has happened, there is no more to be said. Thus 
every argument except a philosophical argument is at 
the mercy of the man who knows. Now the production 
of fact stifles the exercise of intelligence by rendering 
it unnecessary. We only think when we do not know. 
Philosophy, which is the only form of study which 
yields no definite results, alone emancipates its fol- 
lowers from the limitations of factual knowledge. 

The Widening of the Common-sense World. But philo- 
sophy is more than a game, and influences our lives 
in ways which are more profound than those of mental 
athletics. This practical influence of philosophy is ex- 


207 



I. Philosophj) and Life 

crted in a number of different ways. Philosophy will 
take a common object and show us that we know much 
less about it than we expected. A chair, for example, 
which appears to common sense to be four wooden legs 
surmounted by a square wooden seat, can be shown by 
philosophical reflection to be an idea in the mind of 
God, a colony of souls, a collection of sense data, a 
piece of our own psychology, or a modification of the 
Absolute. Philosophy can give very good reasons for 
supposing that the chair is each and all of these things, 
and, although it cannot definitely prove which of them 
it is, it at least makes it quite certain that it is not just 
a chair. From this point of view the value of philosophy 
lies largely in its uncertainty. The man who has no 
acquaintance with, philosoj^y goes through life im- 
prisoned in the prejudices, the preferences, and the 
habitual beliefs derived from the society in which he 
happens to have been born and the period in which 
he lives. If he is born in Persia, he thinks it right to 
have four wives; if in England, only one. If he is born 
in 400 B.C., he thinks the sun goes round the earth; 
if in A.D. 1 900, he takes the contrary view. None of 
the views which he holds are the result of independent 
thought; all are the product of convictions which, hav- 
ing grown up without the consent of his reason, are 
merely the reflections of the conventions and prejudices 
of his age. To such a one the world tends to become 
dull and obvious. Common objects provoke no questions, 
and unfamiliar possibilities are contemptuously re- 
jected. Philosophy, which rjiises doubts about what has 

208 



Philosophy as a Clearing House 

hitherto been taken for granted, keeps alive the sense 
of wonder g^id restores mystery to the world. By dim- 
inishing our, certainty as to what is, it enormously in- 
creases the possibility of what may be. Thus it makes 
life more interesting, not because of the answers it pro- 
vides to the questions it raises, but because, by the 
mere process of raising such questions, it liberates us 
from the dominance of the actual and sets us on the 
threshold of the region of emancipating thought. 

Philosophy as a Clearing House. It is here that we ap- 
proach the specific function of philosophy, a function 
which philosophy can alone fufil and which constitutes 
its main justification. We can exhibit this function in 
the clearest light by drawipg attention to the funda- 
mental difference between philosophy and science. 
The scientist, working away in a watertight compart- 
ment, devotes his attention to a certain section of the 
universe. Thus enclosed, he arrives at more or less 
definite conclusions without stopping to think what 
relation they bear to the conclusions reached by other 
scientists working in their watertight compartments. 
This is not a criticism of the scientist; cosmic correlation 
is not his business, but it is not to be wondered at if 
some of the conclusions clcish. Some of the results of 
modern physics are, for example, at the moment in- 
compatible with the findings of a well-known school 
of psychologists, so that, if what certain physicists say 
about the world is true, what certain psychologists say 
cannot be true. Hence arises the need of a clearing 



I. Philosophy and Life 

house in which the results arrived at by the various 
sciences can be pooled and collated, in order that, 
looking at them as a whole, we may be able to infer 
what kind of universe it is that we liVe in, and hazard 
a guess at the destiny of human life within it. 

Now philosophy may be defined as the effort to com- 
prehend the universe as a whole, not, like physics or 
biology, a special department of it, but the whole mass 
of data to which the moral intuitions of the ordinary 
man, the religious consciousness of the saint, the 
aesthetic enjoyment of the airtist, and the history of the 
human race, no less than the discoveries of the physicist 
and the biologist, contribute. To look for certain fixed 
and definite knowledge in regard to a subject matter 
of so all-embracing a character is unreasonable. 

In the first place, the subject matter is itself in a state 
of continual flux. It is not philosophy alone that is 
changing and self-contradictory; the record of science 
is strewn with the debris of discarded theories, and the 
scientific laws and formulae of one age are superseded 
in the next. At the moment the physicists are presenting 
us with new theories about the constitution of the 
material universe at the rate of one every ten years, 
while biology is in a perpetual state of controversy about 
the cause and character of the evolution of life. But 
more important than differences in the data about 
which the philosopher speculates are the differences 
in the minds of philosophers. Philosophy is not content 
to catalogue the facts; it inquires into their meaning. 
Pooling the experiences of the scientist, the saint, the 


210 



The Subjective Element 

artist, and the common man, it asks what must be the 
nature of the universe in which such experiences are 
possible. It is interested, in other words, not so much 
in the facts as in their significance. Thus it establishes 
principles of selection and rejection whereby some of 
the facts are shown to be important, while others are 
rejected as trivial or condemned as illusory; it assigns 
values too, and assesses the universe in respect of its 
beauty or its goodness. 

The Subjective Element. Now, this search for meaning 
and significance, this task of assessment and valuation, 
involve considerations of a highly personal character. 
We shall select according to what we think important; 
we shall group and arrange acccifding to likenesses 
which we think significant; we shall assign values to 
what wc recognize as beautiful or good. What we think 
important or significant or beautiful or good will de- 
pend very largely upon the sort of minds we possess, 
and not only upon our minds, but also upon our 
characters and temperaments. One man will detect 
common elements where another observes only a chaos 
of differences; some will recognize the hand of God in 
what others insist to be a haphazard collection of 
fortuitous events. Thus, while the facts are the same 
for all, the conclusions which we base upon them 
will be different. Nor need this difference be deplored; 
just as it takes all sorts of men to make a world, so 
does it take all sorts of minds to make the truth about 
the world, and philosophy is no more to be dismissed 


211 



I. Philosophy and Life 

because each philosopher has a different system, than 
morality is to be invalidated by the fact of differing 
moral judgments, or religion proclaimed to be non- 
sense because there are innumerable variations of 
religious belief. 

The conclusions of philosophy are, therefore, un- 
certain because they depend not upon facts but upon 
the interpretation of facts; and, once we go beyond 
the facts and attempt to give them a meaning, we have 
to reckon with the clement of personality. Given the ; 
same facts, two observers will take different views of 
what they mean, simply because they are different | 
people. The facts upon which men’s creeds, for example, 
arc based are the same for all, yet there is no view about 
the universe, however fanta^c, which has not been held 
by some, and it is possible to find excellent reasons for 
holding any belief under the sun. It is easy to see, then, 
that our attitude to facts and our estimate of their 
significance are in part determined by our tempera- 
ments, our experiences, our wishes, and our hopes; 
so much so, that it often seems as if our reason was given 
to us only in order that we might invent arguments 
for what we instinctively wish to believe. Our hopes 
and our wishes are, no doubt, pretty much the same, 
however we choose to disguise them, but there are 
undeniable differences; the heaven for which the 
Mohammedan craves, a heaven devoted to perpetual 
love making, seems to me, for example, as intolerable 
as the old-fashioned Christian’s conception of an orgy 
of laudatory singing. All that I wish to emphasize here, 


212 



Universality of Philosophic Themes 

however, is the undeniable part which our wishes play 
in influencing our conclusions. Once this is admitted, it 
will be seen that every philosophy is in some sense a 
personal statement. It is a picture of the universe, it 
is true, but it is also a reflection of the philosopher.* 
This personal factor must be discounted in assessing 
the truth-claim of a philosophy. The scientist points to 
the universe and says; ‘This is a fact’; the philosopher can 
only draw his inferences and say, ‘I think this is implied by 
the fact’. You may agree with him because you are con- 
strained by the cogency of his reasoning; you may also 
agree merely because you happen to share his wishes. 

Universality of Philosophic Themes. Hence the uncer- 
tainty of philosophy arises partly from the largeness of 
the questions it studies, aiM partly’Trom the tempera- 
mental considerations which must necessarily affect our 
attitude to them. But the all-embracing character of 
philosophical problems, while it makes for uncertainty 
in the answers, is not without its effect upon the mind 
that studies them. Taking the whole realm of knowledge 
for its sphere, philosophy deals with those ultimate 
problems which have troubled men in all ages since 
thought^ began. For equipment to grapple with these 
problems philosophy arms itself with the most up-to-date 
information, including, of course, the conclusions 
reached by the special sciences. But the philosopher, 
as we have seen, is not content to rest in these con- 
clusions; they are for him merely a stimulus to specu- 
lation, diving-boards from which he may plunge into 
' But never solely of the pliilosopluT. Sci; Cluiplcr V, p. 167- 

213 



I. Philosophy and Life 

the sea of the unknown. His work begins, in short, 
where that of the scientist leaves off. In the light of 
the facts recorded by scientific research, he proceeds to 
a renewed consideration of the time-honoured problems 
of humanity. Has the universe any plan or purpose, or 
is it merely a fortuitous concourse of atoms? Is mind a 
fundamental feature of the universe, in terms of which 
we are ultimately to interpret the rest, or is it a mere 
accident, an eddy in the primeval slime, doomed one 
day to finish its pointless journey with as little signifi- 
cance as it began it? Are good and evil real and ulti- 
mate principles existing independently of men, or are 
they merely the names we give to the things of which 
we happen to approve and to disapprove? 

Philosophy seeks/o study these questions impartially, 
not desiring to arrive at results which are comfortable 
or flattering to human conceit, nor to construct a uni- 
verse which is conformable with human wishes. On the 
contrary, it endeavours to maintain a modest attitude 
towards objective fact, and to discover truth without 
fear or favour. 

The Philosophic Attitude. Those who give time to 
the study of such impersonal questions are^ bound 
to preserve something of the same impartiality and 
freedom in the world of action and emotion. Since 
a consideration of fundamental questions shows us 
how little is certainly known, the philosopher is ready 
to grant that contrary views may have as much or 
as little truth as his own. Thus philosophy generates 


214 



The Philosophic Attitude 

an attitude of tolerance which refuses to make the dis- 
tinction between right and wrong, good and evil, 
truth and falsehood, identical with that between the 
things done and the views held by the self and the 
contrary actions and thoughts of others. Finally, the 
fact that no agreed answer has yet been discovered to 
the most fundamental questions cannot but suggest to 
the honest thinker that all systems hitherto constructed 
are in some degree false. Tho.se who have no tincture 
of philosophy arc inclined on all questions not suscept- 
ible of proof to supply the place of knowledge by con- 
verting other people’s conjectures into dogmas. The 
philosopher, on the other hand, will admit that even 
his so-called knowledge is conjectural, and regard 
fanaticism, bigotry, and dogmatijpi not only as an 
offence against manners, but as a betrayal of the truth. 
It is for the sake of the questions themselves which 
philosophy studies, and of the methods with which it 
pursues them, rather than for any set of answers that 
it propounds, that philosophy is to be valued. 

Through the greatness of the universe which it con- 
templates the mind itself achieves greatness. It escapes 
from the circle of petty aims and desires which for most 
of us constitute the prison of everyday life, and for- 
getting the nervous little clod of wants and ailments 
which is the self, is elevated into communion with that 
which is greater than the self. On the practical side this 
greatness of the mind generates qualities of tolerance, 
justice and understanding, in the growth of which 
lies the chief hope for the world to-day. 


215 



Chapter VIII 

Life into Value 

★ 

I. RELEVANCE TO BOOK OF PHILOSOPHICAL 
POSITION 

I have hinted on a number of occasions in the pre- 
ceding chapters that a particular position which has 
been adopted, ora particular line of argumentwhich has 
been followed can ultimately be justified only on the 
assumption of somj.general philosophical position. This 
is, I take it, as it should be. If one ventures to have such 
a thing as a philosophy — and the venture, rash enough 
at all times, becomes increasingly so with every fresh 
encroachment by science and erosion by psychology — 
it should, just because it is a philosophy and purports 
therefore to be an affirmation about the universe as a 
whole, apply with more or less relevance to every sub- 
ject of philosophic discourse. 

If, in other words, you have come to hold some 
definite view — however tentatively and however con- 
scious you may be of the difficulties and objections to 
which it is exposed — on such fundamental questions as 
the ultimate character of the universe, whether, for 
example, it is mental or material or neither or both, 
the status of life in general within the universe, the 

216 



Relevance to Book of Philosophical Position 

significance of human life in particular, the nature of 
the evolutionary process which has produced human 
life, the purpose, if any, of that process, the status of 
values and their relation to the knowing mind — you 
will find it impossible to keep this general view entirely 
in the background, when you arc discussing topics such 
as the function of reason and the recognition of values 
in the modern world, with which I have been concerned 
in the preceding chapters. 

I have more especially been conscious of the intrusion 
of this general view, or, rather, of the pressure it was 
exerting upon me to permit its intrusion, in the third 
chapter and in the seventh. In the third chapter, I en- 
deavoured to convey my belief in the objectivity of 
values and the special sigpificanc<4, of the experiences 
involved in the apprehension of them. In the last, I 
described what I conceive to be the function and value 
of philosophy. Yet, although both chapters were of an 
apologetic rather than a constructive character, being 
concerned to defend objective value and to vindicate 
the claims of reasoning against the logical relativism, 
the scientific empiricism, the psychological subjectivism 
and the moral and the aesthetic anarchy of the times, 

I found^my defence hampered from the outset by two 
disabilities. Either I had to assume positions for which 
I believed I had good warrant, but for which I had 
produced no grounds, or I had to dispense with the 
very valuable assistance to my cause which the assump- 
tion of just those positions would have enabled me to 
derive. The dilemma was an uncomfortable one, and 


217 



Life into Value 

struggling first on one and then upon the other of its 
horns, but principally upon the first, I endeavoured 
to console myself and appease my reader by promising 
in a later chapter some indication of the gcn&ral frame- 
work of philosophical assumptions within which the 
positions I was wishing to assume would naturally 
fall, and from which they would logically derive. 

Difficulty of Summarizing a Philosophy. Yet now that the 
time has come to carry out this implied promise, I am 
dismayed by the difficulty of fulfilling the obligation 
it imposes. I have endeavoured to set out elsewhere, 
in books entitled Matter, Life and Value\ and Philosophical 
Aspects of Modern Science^, the reasons for the positions 
which I have hithet^o assumed and now seek to support. 
Both books are long, the first one formidably so; hence 
the task that now devolves upon me is summarily to 
recast the arguments there detailed at length. This at 
least would have been my task, were it not that my 
views have undergone some inevitable changes since 
these books were written, and a mere summary will 
not, therefore, fill the bill. 

Even if it did, I find on consideration that I cannot 
bring myself to undertake it. Not only is the task of 
summarizing a dull one, but I am certain that I should 
botch it. Now diffident as I may be about the conclusions 
I have reached, and inadequate as I suspect many of 
the arguments 1 have used in their favour to be, I have 

’ Oxford University Press. 1929. 

- Alien and Unwin. 1932. 


218 



Reversion to the Concept of Mental Levels 

sufficient interest in the conclusions, sufficient respect 
for the arguments not to wish to do them the injustice 
of misstating them. Consequently I must content myself 
with running over the main heads of my philosophical 
credo, in so far as they are relevant to the issues raised 
in this book, leaving those who care to know the 
reasons for them to look elsewhere. 

II. STATEMENT OF BELIEF 
A. KNOWLEDGE AND ITS OBJECTS 

Reversion to the Concept of Mental Levels. In the third 
chapter I referred to the account given in Plato’s Sym- 
posium of the way in which the Form of Beauty comes to 
be apprehended by the hum^an mind* The distinguishing 
characteristic of the process was, it may be remembered, 
the series of ‘jumps’ by means of which the development 
of esthetic insight was effected. The advance from one 
level of apprehension to another was discontinuous, 
and the final revelation of the Form, described in the 
language of a mystical vision, appeared to be divorced 
from the logical process which had led up to and con- 
ditioned it. I laid some stress in the chapter in question 
upon this conception of discontinuous advance, this 
jumping’ by the mind, and considered its bearing upon 
the appreciation of art. I now affirm my belief that it is 
equally fruitful in metaphysics, that it is in truth only 
a particular illustration of a general process, the pro- 
cess whereby the mind comes to know the universe 
outside it. 


219 



Life into Value 

The external world is, I hold, revealed to the human 
mind precisely as it is. I use the word ‘revealed’ 
deliberately, to indicate that we in no sense create or 
even contribute to what we know. The process of 
knowing is, I hold, one of discovering what is there, 
not of imputing or creating what is not. Such dis- 
covery takes place just as truly when we are thinking 
about the relations which hold between so-called 
abstract conceptions, as when we are perceiving that 
the fire is hot, the circle round and the sky blue. The 
world so revealed appears to be arranged in a series 
of orders or levels. I do not mean that the levels differ 
in degrees of reality, as many philosophers have sup- 
posed. In fact I am unable to see how any one thing 
can be more real ttan anot,hcr. They differ, so far as 
concerns our present purpose, primarily in re.spcct of 
the order in which they come to be known by the 
developing mind. 

We often make use meaningfully of the expression, 
‘the mind develops’. Yet the statement is an ambiguous 
one which is capable of diverse interpretations. I sug- 
gest that the one which it can most suitably bear is 
that of a sharpening and widening of the mind’s faculty of 
knowledge or awareness, so that, as a con.stqucnce 
of its development, more of the world outside us is re- 
vealed to the knowing mind, than was revealed before. 
If this is so, the degree of development of any mind 
may be measured by reference to the area of the universe 
revealed to it. A highly developed mind is one aware 
not only of more of the contents of the world, but of 


220 



Knowledge of Sense Data 

different kinds of contents and, in particular, of con- 
tents more difficult of discernment than those accessible 
to a mind less developed, just as the ears of dogs and 
savages can discern notes whose pitch renders them 
inaudible to civilized human beings. 

Knowledge of Sense Data. The order of contents im- 
mediately revealed to the minds of animals and 
babies consists of what philosophers are accustomed to 
call sense data. These are not physical objects, but the 
patches of colour of which we are actually aware when 
we see something, the sounds which we apprehend when 
we hear something, th^mells which we smell when we 
smell it, and so fortji. Sugar, we say, is white; it is also 
sweet. But when we put it|into our>mouths, the sweet- 
ness we taste is not white, nor, when we look at it, is 
the white patch we see sweet. When we look at a table 
we do not see the whole of it; we see a brown shape 
which varies in .appearance as we alter our point of 
observation. When we rap it, we hear a short, sharp 
noise; when we feel it, we are aware of a hard, cool 
something. Now the theory of sense data asserts that 
these data of sense, the brown shape, the sharp noise, 
the hard, cool something, constitute the actual contents 
of the outside world of which our senses make us im- 
mediately aware. It is through them, by virtue of some 
process of integration and synthesis, that we somehow 
come to know sugar and tables; but this knowledge 
which we presently come to have of sugar and tables 
is not sensory knowledge. 


221 



Life into Value 

Knowledge of Physical Objects. By saying that it is not 
sensory, I mean, among other things, that it is not 
knowledge which we possess as babies. The process 
whereby the fragmentary data of sense become syn- 
thesized into objects by the infant mind is studied by 
psychologists. Thus the something which feels soft to 
its touch, the something which is pink to look at and 
the pleasantly cooing something, which are the baby’s 
primitive sensations of the object which it subsequently 
comes to know as its mother, gradually become integ- 
rated, by virtue of the fact that they are always found to 
go together, into a physical object, a human body, 
which is both soft and pink and the source of a cooing 
noise. 

The relation ofr sense 4^13 to physical objects is 
obscure, and I cannot go into it here. There seems, 
however, to be good reason for thinking that sense 
data are neither parts of the surfaces of physical objects 
nor caused by them. All we can say with any degree 
of certainty is that the mind first knows fragmentary 
sense data, and then synthesizes these fragmentary 
data into physical objects. But the knowledge of the 
physical object whic h is thus attained is not itself sen- 
sory knowledge; it is the result of a definite jump by 
the mind from one level of apprehension to another, 
a jump which only minds at a certain level of develop- 
ment are capable of making. It would surprise me very 
much to find that a mollusc’s world contained physical 
objects which were in the least like our ‘objects’. But 
I should not be surprised, if a mollusc writing the story 


222 



Knowledge of Objects of Thought 

of his life experiences, were found to be talking in terms 
of felt, smelt and tasted substances,* analogous to the 
shape we feel in the dark and wonder what it is, to the 
unpleasant odour that assails our nostrils prompting us 
to ask 'What made that smell?’, and the bitter flavour 
which we experience in the salad when, munching 
lettuce, we subsequently discover that we have bitten 
on a caterpillar. And when, having asked ourselves 
the question, 'What is it that we arc feeling, smelling, 
tasting,’ we answer it is a table, a dead mouse, or a 
caterpillar, there is, I suggest, a definite jump on the 
part of the mind to a new level of awareness, the jump 
from sense data to physical objects. 

Knowledge of Objects of .Thoughl.o But the mind of 
civilized man does not remain at the level of the aware- , 
ness of physical objects; it proceeds to the apprehension ’ 
of objects of thought. And just as practice and exercise ■ 
in the knowledge of sense data prepared the way for 
the mind’s jump to the knowledge of physical objects, 
so practice and exercise in the knowledge of physical 
objects lead to the apprehension of the relations be- 
tween them, relations which, since they are not them- 
selves regarded as ‘physical’ even by courtesy title, I 
am terming ‘objects of thought’. They lead, for instance, 
to an apprehension of the causal relation. 

This is not the place for a discussion of the vexed 

’ I do not wish to commit myself to the doubtful proposition 
that molluscs have noses and palates. This is a hypothetical illus- 
yation merely; it is not intended as natural history. 

223 



Life into Value 

philosophical problem of ‘cause’. I must content my- 
self, therefore, with a statement of philosophical belief 
witliout giving the highly controversial grounds for it. 
I believe that what happens when we apprehend the 
fact that A causes B is more or less as follows: We see 
a stone travel through the air and hit the window of a 
house. Immediately afterwards we see a hole in the 
window and fragments of glass falling to the ground. We 
say that the stone broke the window and made the hole; 
we affirm, in fact, a causal relation between the stone 
and the hole, but we do not apprehend the relation 
with our senses, we do not see it as we see, or think we 
see, the stone and the hole. So far as sense perception is 
concerned, all that we are aware of is first, the succession 
of sensory data whic^i we call,‘a moving stone’, secondly, 
the sensory data which we call ‘a hole in window’. It 
is, nevertheless, a fact that we are aware of the causal 
relation. I know that the moving stone was the cause of 
the smashed window, just as surely as I know the stone 
and the window. If anybody says that I don’t know it, 
merely because I do not apprehend it with my senses, 
he is saying what is not true. 

What account, then, are we to give of this knowledge? 
I would suggest — and, I repeat, I am only stating a 
view, not defending it — that there are certain character- 
istics of reality, certain facts which belong to tire nature 
of things, certain constituents of the universe — the 
precise language used here is immaterial — which, while 
not revealed either to sense perception or to introspec- 
tion, .are nevertheless known. And they arc known by 


224 



Knowledge of Objects of Thought 

means of a faculty which only minds at a certain level 
of development have evolved, a faculty which may be 
called ‘Non- Perceptual Intuition’. All relations be- 
tween physical things are, I should say, of this type; so 
are ethical characteristics; so are categories such as 
those of quantity, quality, substance and physical force. 
They are, that is to say, objects of thought. 

Objects of thought are incapable of manifesting 
themselves sensuously as do colours, sounds and smells, 
yet it is necessary that we should have sensory experience 
to' draw our attention to their presence in the universe. 
Just as experience of sense data sooner or later directs 
the attention of the mind which has the experience to 
the physical objects to which the data poim, so 
experience of physical objects soo.tier or later directs 
the attention of the mind which has the experience 
to the non-perceptual relations and categories which 
relate the perceived objects. But, as in the former case, 
so in this one, it is necessary that the minds having 
the experience should have reached a certain level of 
development, in order that they may be in a position 
to make the jump involved from the apprehension of 
one type of object to the apprehension of another. And, , 
that the mind may reach this level, exercise and prac- 
tice at the preceding level of habitual apprehension are 
necessary. It was, in other words, only by long reflection 
upon phenomena such as the breaking of the window 
by the stone, that men’s minds came to grasp the general 
concept of cause. 


p 


225 



Life into Value 

Analysis of Thinking. In my view the process which 
we call thinking, the process which is" now habitual in 
the human race, is nothing more or less than the ex- 
ploration by the faculty of Non-Perceptual Intuition 
of regions of the universe which are not accessible to 
the senses, and of the relations between the objects in 
those regions. Just as in sense perception the mind 
acquaints itself with the physical contents of the world, 
reporting on the smells, tastes, shapes, colours, sounds 
and so forth which it contains, so, in thinking, it be- 
comes acquainted with contents of a different order 
revealed not to the senses but directly to the faculty 
of Non-Perceptual Intuition. 

It is, of course, the case that many philosophers are 
inclined to doubt* whether in thinking the mind i.s 
aware of anything but its own ideas. But, if this were 
so, it is difficult to see in what sense it could be main- 
tained that some of our ideas are true and some false. 
True ideas are, presumably, those which correspond 
with or faithfully represent some aspect of or factor in 
reality. If, then, we do not merely have ideas but can 
know, as we undoubtedly do know in the case of some 
of them, that they are true, it would seem that we must 
also credit ourselves with the ability to know the aspects 
of or factors in reality with which our ideas correspond 
or which they faithfully represent, in order that, 
noting the correspondence, we may proceed to affirm 
of the ideas that they are true. Moreover, it is hard to 
see how the fact that one man’s thought can be com- 
municated to or made intelligible to another is to be 

226 



Thinking of Ctesar 

accounted for, if they are never thinking of the same 
thing; yet it is precisely this that, on the assumption that 
each in thinking is aware only of his own private ideas, 
they never can do. 

Thinking of Ctesar. Consider, for example, the case of 
historical thinking. Let us suppose that I am thinking 
of the fact that Caesar crossed the Rubicon. Of what am 
I aware when I think of Caesar? Certainly not of a 
physical object, since Caesar, as a physical object, has 
ceased to exist, or rather, the substance of his physical 
body is by now so diffused through worms, soil, grass, 
cattle and other people, that it would be exceedingly 
difficult’ for me to think of such a thing, even if I wanted 
to. But in fact it is quite cerjtain thal^it is not of any such 
diffusion of physical substances that I am thinking, when 
I reflect upon the fact that Caesar crossed the Rubicon. 
Is Caesar, then, an idea or concept in my own mind, and 
is it of this idea or concept that I am thinking, when I 
affirm that Caesar crossed the Rubicon? 

There seem to me to be two conclusive reasons against 
this view. First, there is the difficulty already cited, 
namely that, if it were true, the mind of each historian 
would be entirely occupied with his own ideas and no 
two historians could ever think of the same thing. If 
historians never think of the same thing, one does not 
see how they could fruitfully discuss historical matters, 
or even intelligibly communicate the results of their re- 
flections. Now it does seem to be the case that historians 
do sometimes intelligibly communicate. Secondly, if 

227 



Life into Value 

historical objects, such as Caesar or the battle of Waterloo, 
are ideas and only ideas in the minds of those who think 
about them, the abolition of minds would involve the 
abolition of historical objects. This means that, should 
there come a time when all knowledge of history ceases, 
either as the result of the destruction of the human race 
or of the diversion of its mental activity to some possibly 
more profitable pursuit, historical facts would cease to 
exist, and it would cease to be a fact that the battle of 
Waterloo was fought in 1815. Now I can see no more 
reason for supposing that this would be the case, than I 
can for supposing that my table would cease to be 
square, if I ceased to look at it. 

I conclude, then, that historical objects are not ideas 
in my mind but ar( public objects, of the kind which I 
have called objects of thought, that they are independent 
of all minds, and that, in common with all non-per- 
ceptual objects, they arc directly apprehended by 
minds which have reached a certain level of develop- 
ment. 


HI. STATEMENT OF BELIEF 
B. ART AS THE WINDOW OF REALITY 
Intimations of a Mew Level of Apprehension. At the level 
at which the minds of civilized human beings normally 
function to-day, objects of thought and the relations 
between them mainly occupy their attention. But we 
have, I believe, reached a stage of evolution at which 
there is being gradually evolved the capacity for the 
apprehension of another order of objects, which I 

22B 



Intimations of a New Level of Apprehension 

propose to call ‘objects of value’. This capacity appears 
at present intermittently and uncertainly and appears 
mainly in mystics and artists. 

At every stage of evolution there are ‘sports’, pre- 
cocious children of the species, who are in advance of 
their contemporaries, pointing forward to what the 
species may become, rather than typically representing 
it as it is. It is precisely this precocity which distinguishes 
the artist and the mystic. For in what respect do they 
differ from the rest of us? Primarily in respect of their 
vision, a vision which is at once more subtle and more 
penetrating. Common phraseology is near the mark 
when it speaks of the artist as one who is able to see 
more in a given situation than his fellows. The ‘more’ 
which he sees is the significant forpi which lies hid in 
common objects; he discerns, that is to say, within the 
material medium which overlays and obscures them, 
certain combinations of forms which, I suggest, derive 
their significance from the fact that by some means or 
other they introduce us to this new class of objects, 
which I am proposing to call ‘objects of value’. To 
revert to common language, the artist detects the mani- 
festation of beauty in what the ordinary man sees only 
as an object of everyday use. So long as his vision lasts, 
the artist remains rapt in contemplation, thrilled to 
ecstasy by the image of this new order of being which is 
vouchsafed to him. But the vision docs not last. Life is 
a dynamic, changing force, an 'ever restless surge, 
which, though it may ultimately come to rest in the un- 
trammelled contemplation of objects of value, has not 


229 



Life into Value 

yet emerged at a stage at which such contemplation is 
either possible or desirable. The most that has yet been 
vouchsafed even to its favoured children is a fleeting and 
intermittent glimpse. The veil is lifted only to be re- 
drawn. While aesthetic contemplation lasts, we are will- 
less and selfless, but only for the moment. Scarcely is he 
assured of the unique character of what his vision re- 
veals, before the artist is caught up again into the stream 
of life, and pulled back into the world of need and want, 
of struggle and desire, which is the habitual type of 
human experience at our present level. 

Why the Artid Creates. And filled with longing and 
regret for the vision that was his, but is his no longer, he 
strives to embody ,'ts outlines on canvas or in stone 
before the memory of it shall have utterly passed away. 
Thus the work of art is a witness not so much to the 
artist’s vision as to his failure to retain it. It is because 
he cannot hold his awareness of the real, that he makes 
images and copies in which his remembrance of it is em- 
bodied. In these images and copies the sensuous 
material, with which significant form is in natural 
objects overlaid, is so reduced, that the combinations 
whose significance the artist has caught arc thrown up 
into relief, being presented as clearly as the nature of 
the material medium allows. For this reason, because 
the artist has first prepared the way, it is easier for those 
of us who are not gifted with his powers of vision to see 
beauty in works of art than it is in natural objects. 


230 



The Inevitabilitj of Great Art 

The Inevitabilily of Great Art. The ability to reveal to us 
something which we could never have discovered for 
ourselves, but whose rightness, whose inevitability 
even, when perceived is at once recognized, is one of 
the distinguishing characteristics of great art. How 
often in listening for the first time to a Mozart quartet 
has the development of a movement seemed to me, in 
the light of what has preceded, to be inevitable. So 
surely do I anticipate, that I hear, almost as it were in 
advance, the bars which my mind has foreshadowed. 
The movement proceeds and, surprisingly, what fol- 
lows is completely different from anything I had 
imagined; different and infinitely better. For a moment 
I am startled, even shocked. ‘How’, I wonder, ‘could 
Mozart have committed himself ty such abrupt, such 
startling transitions, which consort so ill with what has 
gone before?’ The feeling of surprise passes, to be fol- 
lowed by a sudden delighted recognition that the music 
was, after all, completely right. Though I could never 
have imagined them for myself, the surprising phrases, 
once their import is grasped, arc seen to be the only 
possible development of the theme. My foreshadowed 
continuation, I now realize, was utterly banal and 
commonplace 

In much the same way when I am reading the great 
novelists, a person will seem to me to say or to do some- 
thing which is completely out of character. I get this 
feeling more particularly with Dickens. Little Dorrit, 
for example, ‘the prison flower’, makes a remark about 
her father which shows her unexpectedly and, to the 


231 



Life info Value 

reader quite shockingly, to have been contaminated by 
her prison environment. The feeling of inappropriate- 
ness lasts, but only for a moment; then the apparent 
departure from character is seen to be in fact ‘in 
character’. Herein, to quote Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, 
is ‘the true novelist’s stroke; rightly divined, so suddenly 
noted that we, who had not expected it, consent at once 
with a “Yes, yes — of course, it happened so’’.’ 

The Function of Great Art. Plato was inclined to inter- 
pret the somewhat similar feeling, a feeling which ex- 
presses itself in the words ‘But, of course, T sec it now. I 
really knew it all the time, only I did not realize that I 
knew it’, which we experience when wc suddenly see 
the solution of a* njathcmadcal problem, or suddenly 
grasp the significance of an initially puzzling logical 
demonstration, as evidence for the doctrine of pre- 
existence. The feeling of familiarity with which the 
solution or the demonstration eventually comes home 
to us, is, he thinks, evidence of our having somehow 
known it before and I'orgotten what wc knew. I concede 
the feeling of familiarity. I would go further than Plato 
and postulate it for those unexpected turns of phrase in 
music or of character in fictio.i, which first surptise then 
reassure us with their artistic inexitabilily, their com- 
plete rightness. But I venture here to suggest as an 
alternative explanation the sudden opening of the eye 
of the layman’s soul by the vision of the artist to a glimpse 
of the world of value. It is a world to which wc could 
not have penetrated by ourselves; but, once vic*ved, it 

OQO 



The Function of Great Art 

evokes the feelings of rightness, of appropriateness, of 
inevitability to which I have referred. Thus, art is the 
window through which life gets its first intimation of 
the nature of a new order of objects which belong to 
the world of value; its function is, to use a metaphor of 
Plato’s, to turn the eye of the soul round to reality, by 
revealing the element of significant form in virtue of 
which the objects of the material world show forth the 
patterns of the world of value which lie behind them. 
Yet it is not Beauty itself that the artist contemplates, 
but only the image of Beauty in a material setting; it is 
only the mystic who may contemplate Beauty and Truth 
directly, and he, for reasons into which I cannot fully 
enter here, is not allowed to indulge his vision overmuch . 

For the world of value h a shinijig glory, the direct 
vision of which man is unable to endure. Yet the glory 
.shines through the veil of sense and the alert and recep- 
tive mind catches its reflection in common things. The 
artist and the musician arc seekers after that glory, and 
the haunting beauty that they pursue is the reflection of 
its light. At times they may even catch a glimpse of the 
original itself, and, seeing it, arc transported with de- 
light. But their vision, if indeed they have it, is never 
more than a fleeting glimpse. For a continuous vision 
the soul of man is not as yet prepared. Faced with a^ 
direct view of reality, it falters and falls back, and, were 
not the veil of matter mercifully interposed, it would be 
stunned and blinded by the force and glory of reality; 
thus it must content itself with the images which we call 
■works of art. 


233 



Life into Value 

Two points rcmtiin to complete this preliminary 
sketch. First, just as in the earlier stages of mind’s devel- 
opment, practice and experience at each level of appre- 
hension that was successively reached prepared the 
way for the mind’s jump to a higher level, so it is by long 
and loving familiarity with objects of thought that the 
mind is prepared for its jump to the apprehension of 
objects of value. It is the scholar rather than the peasant 
or the halfwit who is likely to respond to art and to see 
the beauty in the world. 

Logic Transcended. Of the nature of this jump, in so far 
as it is made by the artist ci eating or the critic apprecia- 
ting beauty, I have already written in the third chapter, 
and, as this is not a, treatise on aesthetics, I have little to 
add here. One thing only, and this is my second point, 
I would stress. Once the jump from one level of mental 
awareness to another has been made, the rules and 
canons of criticism appropriate to the preceding level 
cease to apply. 

Thus it is a sign that the jump to the level of value has 
been made, when logic is replaced by insight. The vision 
of the Form of Beauty which Plato describes in the 
Symposium has no affinity with the intellectual -process, 
the process of exact thinking in science and mathematics, 
which leads up to it. Ordinarily wc expect people who 
have enjoyed some peculiarly delightful or exciting 
experience to be able to report it, or, at least, to give 
some account of it. But nobody expects from the mystic 
a coherent account, still less a logical explanation of the 


234 



The Art which is beyond Criticism 

vision that has transported him. Similarly with art. The 
greatest art seems to be independent of the rules of 
composition which determine excellence at a lower 
level! In fact, the greatest writers may and habitually do 
break all the rules without prejudicing their claim to 
greatness. 

The Art which is beyond Criticism. Everybody can point 
to obvious faults in great works of literature. In The 
Merry Wives, for example, or in King Lear, there are 
faults of composition and faults of form; there is in- 
coherence; there are improbabilities and inconsisten- 
cies. Wc could no doubt improve the plots of both plays 
considerably. Yet both reach a certain level, a level of 
what for want of a better ^word wf^ call ‘greatness’, at 
which such criticisms, relevant to smaller works, seem 
to be negligible. In. fact the be.st negative indication of 
greatness in a work of literary art that I can think of is 
its indill'ercnce, its superiority to mistakes which would 
wreck a production at the ordinary level. A work is 
great, when it has ceased to matter that it is bad. More 
formally wc may define greatness as a characteristic of 
works of art, which they possess in virtue of the vision 
they embody of an order of the universe which tran- 
scends the objects of thought upon which the minds 
of most civilized men arc normally directed. This 
order is that which contains objects of value. Thus- 
the apprehension of the great artist is an apprehension 
of value. 

‘ I have spoken so far of literary greatness; but great- 

235 



Life into Value 

ness in literature illustrates a quality which to my mind 
is more completely and more convincingly exemplified 
by music. There are certain passages in music which, 
even when they observe, seem to transcend all the 
ordinary rules of composition, for example, the slow 
movement of Bach’s D Minor Concerto for two violins 
and orchestra. There are others equally transcendent 
which appear to violate them. Sometimes there is in the 
same movement a transition from music which acknow- 
ledges form and keeps the rules, to passages which arc 
apparently void of form and indifferent to rules. This 
transition is usually gradual; one is insensibly trans- 
ported to a realm in which excellences of harmony and 
counterpoint are no longer present, or no longer missed, 
if they are absent; ifthey ar^ present, their presence has 
become irrelevant. Sometimes this happens abruptly. 
Consider, for instance, the slow movement of Beethoven’s 
Trio in B Flat, Opus 97, a trio which was composed on 
the threshold of that third period of Beethoven develop- 
ment when he appears to shed the trappings of an art he 
has transcended, and communes with Beauty direct. The 
slow movement consists of a theme beautiful, passionate 
and instinct with longing, which is subsequently devel- 
oped in a series of variations. At the close the theme is 
repeated; at least, it is restated, but the restatement 
never ends. As the end is approached, an arresting 
chord is struck, there is a half-close, and then the music 
suddenly goes off into a new world, a formless void of 
pure sound for which the word ‘mystical’ seems the 
only appropriate description. The music is intensely 

236 



The ‘Last Periods’ of Great Artists 

moving; it is music of the highest order; yet its excel- 
lence is not that of ordinary music. It is exactly as if 
Beethoven had broken through from one world into 
another, as a man may break through a thicket of 
jungle to come suddenly upon a view of the hills be- 
yond: or as if, having ascended to a new level, a level at 
which a new order of reality is apprehended, he con- 
temptuously knocks away the scaffolding of form, har- 
mony and counterpoint, by means of which the ascent 
was made. 

The 'Last Periods' of Great Artists. It is noticeable that 
these passages, to which the world gives the name of 
‘mystical’, occur for the most part in the works of men 
who have grown old. The ^ecthove^i of the posthumous 
quartets, the Shakespeare of the Tempest, the Plato of 
the Timms, and I should like to add — for Shaw too, I 
submit, is a great artist — the Shaw of the first and last 
plays of Back to Methuselah, arc men who, having passed 
beyond the level of awareness and insight at which | 
most artists have drawn their inspiration, have sought i 
to bring back to mankind a report of what they have 
experienced. A common interpretation of these pas- ' 
sages ascribes their peculiar quality to a kind of fore- 
knowledge, a foreknowledge derived from intimations 
of the world beyond death, vouchsafed to those who are 
already nearing their end, as a man may ascend a high 
mountain for a view of the country which he is soon to 
traverse. Their qualities of serenity and aloofness, their 
remoteness from the interests of this world, their pal- 

237 



Life into Value 

pable lack of concern with the emotions that excite, the 
affairs that intrigue its inhabitants, are ascribed to the 
circumstance of their authors being already in spirit 
members of another. For my part, I would suggest 
rather that the distinctive qualities of the work of great 
artists grown old are due to their more constant com- 
muning with the world of value. Through long years of 
endeavour and practice of their art on the level at 
which reflections of Beauty are seen in sensible things, 
their minds have been prepared for the jump to the 
higher level, where the veil of sense is broken and 
Beauty, and it may be Truth — if Truth be wisdom — are 
viewed - direct. 

This aloofness, then, that characterizes the ‘last period’ 
work of great artisfs is not ^that of the soul already in 
spirit participating in an advance vision of that which 
in due temporal course it will more fully enjoy: it is 
rather the aloofness of the mathematician concerned 
with the relations between the objects ofatimeless world. 
It is precisely this world which at the next level of evo- 
lutionary development may, I would suggest, become 
the concern of most human minds. What significance 
should be attached to the phrase ‘next level of evolu- 
tionary development’? The question is one which must 
be answered, before I can at last return to the defence of 
philosophy. 


IV. STATEMENT OF BELIEF 
C. THE EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS 
Dualism: Mind and Matter as Independent Reals. Evolu- 
2 ^ 



Life’s Relation to Matter 

lion is, I believe, a real process in time. It is also a pur- 
posive process in which life, initially a blind uncon- 
scious thrust, seeks to develop an ever higher degree of 
consciousness. Height of consciousness is, I have sug- 
gested,' to be measured by reference to the character of 
the objects of which, at different stages of life’s develop- 
ment, consciousness achieves awareness. Life, then, is a 
real and independent principle, distinct from, although 
animating, matter. Since it affirms the separate exis- ' 
tence of matter, this doctrine is not in any sense an 
idealist one; nor is it materialist, since it also affirms that 
life is other than matter and cannot be analysed in 
terms of it. My belief, in fact, involves the unfashionable 
doctrine of Dualism. How, it may be asked, can Dual- 
Lsm at this time of day be defended? I can only reply: 
‘Consider the facts.’ 

Life's Relation to Matter. Life appears in a world of 
matter and is initially characterized by a twofold rela- 
tionship to matter. It knows or is aware oi' matter and 
it is dependent upon it. By life’s knowledge of matter, I 
mean merely the perception which we as hving organ- 
isms have of our bodies and of the external world 
through our five senses. The perception of their bodies 
and of events occurring in their bodies is characteristic 
of all living organisms, however lowly their status. Even 
plants may be supposed to be aware of their own physi- 
cal needs. The feeling of physical need, of the need of 
hunger for example, or the need for reproduction, 

' See above, p. 220. 


239 



Life into Value 

‘can be shown to be due to bodily changes taking place 
within the organism; it can be analysed, that is to say, 
into awareness of events in the material structure of 
which the body of the organism is composed. Thus a 
feeling of pain, such as, for example, toothache, may be 
described as our awareness of certain material occur- 
rences in our bodies. .<\nimals, as compared with plants, 
are aware not only of their own bodily needs, but also 
of the world of matter external to their bodies; they are 
aware, for example, of other animals.' But, though the 
perception of animals extends over a wider range than 
that of plants, their attention is still directed almost en- 
tirely upon sense data, that is upon matter. I say ‘almost 
entirely’ because there are traces of rudimentary think- 
ing in animals: it js probable, for example, that they 
remember, and the analysis of memory can be shown to 
require the introduction of objects of thought, since it 
frequently happens, as I have tried to show,'' that what 
we think of, when we remember something, no longer 
exists as a piece of matter. But in animals the knowledge 
of objects of thought, even if it exists, is precarious and 
intermittent, and, like the knowledge of value in human 
beings, must be reckoned a comparatively abnormal 
occurrence. 

Growing Power of Mind over Matter. Savages think a 
little more than animals, but not much. When, how- 

* Thb, of course, is also true in some degree of some plants: 
there is no sharp dividing line. 

* See above, p. 227. 


240 



Mastery over the Body 

ever, we come to civilized man we find a noticeable 
change, a change which can best be expressed by saying 
that the centre of interest and attention has shifted from 
pieces of matter to objects of thought. In order that we 
may realize how this change has become possible, let 
us consider the other characteristic of life’s twofold 
relationship to matter, namely, its dependence upon 
matter. 

It is notorious that one of the great achievements of 
civilizadon consists in man’s mastery over the forces of 
nature, in other words, in his power over matter. By the 
construcdon of appropriate machines we have made not 
only gravitation our slave, but also electricity and mag- 
netism, atomic attraction, repulsion, polarization, and 
so forth. We can utilize t^ese forces to transcend our 
limitations by making for ourselves new limbs outside 
ourselves to supplement our original bodily inheritance, 
cranes and elevators to do the work of arms, trains and 
motors to take the place of legs. We have learned to fly 
and supply ourselves with wings in the shape of 
aeroplanes. 

Mastery over the Body. In the second place, we attain to 
an incrc?asing mastery over the matter which constitutes 
our own bodies. We have changed and continue to 
change the structure of our bodies by the use to which 
we put them. Within the comparatively brief period 
studied by anatomy we have learned to dispense with 
teiils, and we are progressively eliminating organs such 
as the appendix and growths such as the toenails, for 

a 


241 



Life into Value 

which we have no further use. The urge to think has 
caused us to achieve an unprecedented growth in brain 
structure, and the increasing size of the human head 
adds to the difficulties and dangers of childbirth. These 
changes have been wrought unconsciously; but we also 
possess power over the body which we exercise con- 
sciously. With each generation that passes, we can pre- 
vent the body from decaying for longer periods, and, 
when at last decay sets in, we can hold life in the body 
and so prevent dissolution for longer periods. The re- 
generation of aged bodies is already among the possible 
developments of medical science. We can turn cretins 
into normal human beings by suitable injections, and 
are within measurable distance of controlling man’s 
emotional life by regulating the secretions of the duct- 
less glands. Apart altogether from the prospects of 
determining the sex of our children, we should be able 
by gland manipulation within the next hundred years 
to make ourselves choleric or timid, strongly or weaked 
sexed, at will. Everything points to the view that our 
present power over the body will be still further in- 
creased in the future. 

Diminution of Intercourse with Matter. Thus our power 
has grown both over matter in general and over the 
matter of which our bodies are composed in particular. 
Each increase in power over matter diminishes our need 
to know it. For example, we do less with our hands than 
our ancestors; we do not carry weights about, defend 
ourselves from attack, or develop great muscular 

342 



Diminution of Intercourse with Matter 

strength. We have in fact delegated our intercourse 
with material objects to machines, and our intercourse 
with machines may be reduced in theory to the neces- 
sity for pressing an occasional button. Each fresh ad- 
vance "in applied science, each addition to man’s 
power over nature that it brings, is, indeed, rightly 
interpreted, merely an opportunity for diminishing our 
need to know and have intercourse with matter. This 
fact is partially obscured by our childish habit of re- 
garding machines as ends in themselves, rather than as 
means to ends beyond themselves. Until we have out- 
grown this habit, we shall continue to make the mistake 
of looking to mechanisms for our interest and of 
depending upon them for our pleasure, instead of re- 
garding them merely as^ energy ^economizers, whose 
raison d’itre consists in their ability to release us from the 
need to concern ourselves with matter, and so to set us 
free to attend to other things. But this mistake, while it 
may delay, cannot permanently obstruct the main 
development of life away from matter. Meanwhile the 
general tendency of the l^lst two thousand years, the 
tendency to utilize the extra limbs we have made out- 
side ourselves to carry on our business with matter for 
us, is sufficiently obvious. As a result, our knowledge or 
awareness of matter is continually diminishing. Com- 
pared with the savage whose main activities consist in 
using his hands for hunting and fighting, we make but 
little use of material, physical objects. So true is this that 
the ordinary clerk or professional man can, broadly 
speaking, go through the day without using his hands 


243 



Life into Value 

at all, except to dress and to feed himself and to write, 
and the lessening intercourse between the hands and 
matter could be paralleled from the uses of the other 
limbs. Meanwhile our senses decay as the need for aware- 
ness of physical objects grows less; the savage can hear 
noises to which we are deaf, and our sense of smell 
grows duller with each generation. 

Purpose of Evolutionary Process. The suggestion that I 
want to make is that evolution is not a blind, haphazard 
process, as the materialists suppose, but that it is pur- 
posive. Putting it crudely we may say that the purpose of 
life is so to evolve, that life’s past and present knowledge 
of the world of matter and present knowledge of the 
world of objects of^hought^ may be superseded by a 
knowledge of the world of value. Initially life is com- 
pletely dependent upon matter, while matter exclusively 
occupies its attention. Already, however, as we have 
seen, life has achieved a certain degree of emancipation 
as a result of which it has partially freed itself from the 
necessity to concern itself with matter, and the attention 
thus liberated is increasingly directed upon objects of 
thought. Thinking, in other words, is beginning to 
supersede doing. As thinking becomes habitual, there 
begins to emerge for the first time the capacity for new 
kinds of experience to which we give the names of reli- 
gious, ethical, and sesthetic. These experiences may be 
interpreted as the mind’s knowledge or awareness of a 
new type of object, which I have called objects of 
value, of which we are now beginning to have our first 


244 



Purpose of Evolutionary Process 

uncertain intimations. And just as the experience of 
objects of thought, which with animals is rare and inter- 
mittent, has with us become normal, so may thinking 
come in its turn to be superseded by the continuous 
experience on the part of life, in its next stage of develop- 
ment, of objects which belong to the world of value. 
Thus our future progress may be conceived as one in 
which, passing beyond thought, we shall reach the level 
pf illumination which the mystic and the artist now 
ifenjoy uncertainly and intermittently. 


245 



Chapter IX 


Defence of Philosophy — II. Philosophy and 
Value 

★ 

The Grandeur of Philosophic Writing. I come at last to 
the defence of philosophy. And the defence is, briefly, 
that, while the objects with which philosophy deals 
belong primarily to the world of thought, they are 
situated, if the metaphor i^ay be pardoned, on the 
furthest confines of that world, so that the mind, which 
is continuously concerned with them, is liable sooner or 
later to break through into the world of value. It is in 
this sense that philosophy is, in a quite literal interpreta- 
tion of the word, one of the most ‘elevating’ pursuits of 
the human mind. It ‘elevates’ the mind to a stage or 
level at which it is liable to pass beyond thought and 
obtain a vision of value. 

Plato named certain sciences as ‘propaedeutic’,* that is, 
as leading up to the study of reality. They were those 
that trained the mind in precision, especially the sciences 
of measuring, weighing and counting. To the relation 
between mathematics and philosophy I shall return in 
a moment. For the present my object is to affirm the 
view that philosophy is the most pre-eminent of the 

246 



Philosophical Objects and Philosophical Knowledge 

propaedeutic studies of the mind. Without actually in- 
troducing the mind to the world of value, it keeps it 
perpetually occupied on its threshold. It is the proxi- 
mity of the philosopher’s realm, the realm of abstract 
thought which is his natural province, to the world of 
value, that is responsible for the exalting quality, a 
quality as of high literature, which distinguishes the 
writings of some of the philosophers and makes philos- 
ophy so exciting to read. It is as if the barrier that 
separates us from the world of value were an envelope, 
an envelope which in certain regions was torn or frayed, 
so that the glory which is beyond shines through, as the 
sun will irradiate a thinning veil of mist. Thus it is 
that those whose minds perpetually dwell in these 
regions reproduce in their writings something of the 
brightness, albeit a reflected brightness, with which the 
world of their habitual preoccupation is pervaded. 

It is along these lines that we must, I would suggest, 
look for an explanation of the generally conceded claim, 
that philosophical writings may on occasion be appro- 
priately judged by the canons applicable to great liter- 
ature. The grounds for this claim constitute in large 
measure my defence of philosophy and I shall consider 
them in some little detail. 

/ (i) Nature of Philosophical Objects and Philosophical 
Knowledge. The objects with which philosophy is con- 
cerned belong scarcely at all to the physical world. It 
is true that the philosophical theory of perception 
Examines the nature of the objects known by the mind 

247 



II. Philosophy and Value 

in sensory experience, and considers whetlier they are 
sense data, physical objects, or mental constructions. 
It is also true that the most widely held view at the 
moment undoubtedly assigns to them a physical status. 
But with this exception, the sphere of philosophical en- 
quiry is the sphere not of sense but of thought, and the 
objects to which the philosopher’s mind is directed 
belong entirely to the world of thought. There is an o ld 
controyersy^m^hilosophy astOLthe £xistence_and nature 
of _whal^. known^as. a prioii knowledge^ th at is, of know- 
ledge otherLthanJheJcnowledge whjch W£liay£pbtained 
throu£h_sense^pxperi^gC. The view, which seems to be 
almost certainly true,* is that we have such knowledge, 
but that sense experience is necessary to direct our atten- 
tion to the fact that we do have it\ It is, nevertheless, 
independent of sense expenence^and it would not 
seem, therefore, to be knowledge about the sensory world. 
Yet knowledge must have an object, and the appro- 
priate objects of a priori knowledge would appear to be 
the objects of thought described in the last chapter. 

Now philosophical knowledge, like mathematical, 
seems to me to be almost entirely of this a priori type. 
I noticed above^ that it is characteristic of mathematics 
that none of its assertions are about anything in par- 
ticular, and that we do not know or care whether any of 
them are true. As Bertrand Russell puts it, ‘mathema- 
tics may be defined as the subject in which we never 
know what we are talking about, nor whether what we 

’ See Chapter IV, pages tai, 122, for the reasons for this view. 

- See Chapter V, pages 161, 162. 

248 



Philosophy like Mathematics Indifferent to Facts 

are saying is true’. The reason is that pure mathematics 
is concerned with hypotheses and inferences. TP, 
mathematics says, 'so and so is the case, then we may 
infer that something eke will be the case.’ But it never 
positively asserts ‘so and so is the case’. It makes in fact 
no positive assertion about the nature of the physical 
world, nor is it necessary that there should be a physical 
in order that the conclusions of mathematics should be 
true. 

Philosophy like Mathematics Indifferent to Facts. Philos- 
ophy is in similar case. When philosophers discuss 
‘cause’ or ‘substance’ or the nature of ‘judgment’, it is a 
matter completely indifferent to them whether A causes 
B or is caused by it, what particular kind of substance 
S has, or precisely what particular judgments P passes; 
indeed, it would not make the slightest difference to 
philosophy, if the A’s, the B’s, the S’s and the P’s and 
all particular things, thoughts and persons ceased to 
exist,' although it would undoubtedly make a consider- 
able difference to philosophers. It is this characteristic, 
which philosophy shares with mathematics, of being 
c oncerned not wi t h part icular things, but w ith gen eral 
truths, jiot with instances but with laws, that I have in 
Trithd when I say that the objects of philosophical en- 
quiry are not physical things but are objects of thought. 
And it is not, I submit, too fanciful to suggest that, un- 
like the objects of scientific enquiry which, although 

* This generalization must be qualified by the exclusion of that 
part of philosophy which deals with sense perception, 

249 



11. Philosophy and Value 

they are not in fact physical test-tubes, chemicals, gases 
and fluids, but are rather the laws governing the be- 
haviour of these things, do nevertheless continually 
refer the scientist back to physical things to illustrate 
and verify the workings of the laws he postulates, the 
objects of philosophy lie on those confines of the world 
of thought which are furthest from the physical realm 
and also nearest to the realm of value. It is to this 
fact, I suggest, that the so-called abstractness of philos- 
ophy and the traditional aloofness of philosophers from 
mundane interests are due. The philosopher misses his 
train, loses his way, does absent-minded things with his 
belongings, because his mind, normally directed upon 
the objects of a non-physical world, cannot easily bring 
its attention to bear upon the contents of the physical 
one, as a man used to wearing spectacles sees everything 
blurred and out of focus when he takes them off. 

Music in Relation to Matter. I hope that I shall not be 
thought indefensibly dogmatic,’ if I assert without 
qualification that music is the greatest of the art s, or 
fanc iful, i ^ suggest that its~a cEnowl edged s^en^ty 
m ay be du^ to^a^rnil^r:guse. Muiic, to iheqjoint 
crudely, makes far less use of matter than any jjf the 
other^ts. The sculptor manipulates plaster and clay, 
and his work when finished is marble, bronze or stone. 
The painter takes as his models material things, and 

’ Partly because I have written at length in Chapter VI of 
Matter, Life and Value, and Chapters IV and IX of Under the Fifth 
Rib in defence of this opinion. 

250 



Music in Relation to Matter 

must so far copy them that art criticism is embroiled in 
a perpetual controversy as to whether pictorial art must 
of necessity be representationalist, or need not be. 
What the painter makes is also a material thing. But the 
musician does not apparently imitate or copy any 
physical thing or things, nor does he make physical 
things.* Further he does not, or need not, use his hands 
to manipulate physical things when he, is creating. 
Mozart saw his compositions as a whole and sometimes, 
apparently, in a flash. The business of transcribing them 
reduced itself, therefore, for him to something in the 
nature of a routine operation. Moreover Mozart does not 
leave us a physical thing as his ‘work’. Admittedly 
physical things, waves, wires, horses’ tails, entrails 
of sheep and cats and so fi^rth, are,,necessary to enable 
his compositions to assume audible form. But it is not 
really necessary for those who are sufficiently gifted 
musically to hear his music, in order that they may 
appreciate it. There is significance too in the fact that 
music is traditionally^ regarded as the most impersonal 
of the arts, and, the gfeeiter the music, the more im- 
personal. Schnabel is reported to have said that he 
could find no difference between the music of Beet- 
hoven, 'Mozart and Schubert. A hard saying; yet 
Schnabel, presumably, knows what he is talking about. 
And what, I take it, he meant is that music can reach a 
level, the level of absolute form, of pure sound, at which 
the personality of the composer is completely transcended . 

, * For a possible qualification of this statement see my Matter, 
Life and Value, pp. 307-g, 


251 



//. Philosophy and Value 

The meaning of such phrases as ‘pure sound’ or 
‘absolute form’ is very difficult to express. But one of the 
things that is, I think, intended is that the vision of the 
artist has penetrated into a world in which a formal 
structure or rhythm is revealed, purged of the dross of 
matter with which it is normally clothed.* Plato’s Form 
of Beauty, which is not tire beauty of any individual 
thing, embodies the same conception. Now the hall- 
mark of the greatest art is that it is super-personal in 
precisely this sense, the personality of the composer 
being lost in the degree to which he succeeds in achiev- 
ing entrance into a world of pure, formal beauty. This 
super-personality is one of the distinctive features of 
Shakespeare’s poetry. It is characteristic too of that ‘last 
period’ work of the greatest ^rtists to whose peculiarities 
I have already referred. But it is realized more often in 
music than in any other art. 

These may perhaps be some of the reasons why music 
has the greatest power over man’s spirit of all the arts, a j 
power which enables it to tear the soul of man like a 
cocoon from the chrysalis in which it is slowly maturing, 
and to endow it momentarily with a precocious puberty 
scarcely inferior in point of spiritual maturity to that of 
the mystic.® Music, in fact, is for some an enchantment, 
revealing by its magic, to souls not yet prepared for it, 
a glory which only the original faculty of the genius, or 

' See the last chapter, pages 229,230, for an elaboration of this. 

^ E.g. its effect on Samuel Pepys: — ‘It ravished me, and, indeed, 
in a word, did wrap up my soul, so that it made me really sick, just 
as I have formerly been when in love with my wife.’ 

252 



Esthetic Value in Philosophy 

the long training and arduous discipline of the mystic or 
sage can reach unassisted. 

[ 2 ) ^sthetii Value in Philosophy. Secondly, there is the 
curious fact, at which I have already glanced, thaLphilo- 
sophical^iiling is capable not only of intellectual but of 
eesthetic evaluation. Prove a scientific theory to be false, 
and, save in the histories of science, it will never be 
heard of again. Pick holes in every page of the writings 
of a great philosopher, show his metaphysir as a whole 
to be untenable, and you prevent neither yourself nor 
anybody else from reading him again and again. A 
scientific theory, in fact, has no pretensions except to 
truth; expose them, and you dismiss the theory. For this 
reason, 1 should imagine, if must b^ a thankless task to 
plough through the works of a scientist whose general 
conclusions you know to be unsound, to see what you 
can pick up of value by the way. 

But by philosophers the task is habitually and fruit- 
fully performed. They know, for example, that Hume 
writes with heavenly detachment and exquisite lucidity, 
and that his works are packed with witty and entertain- 
ing comment. Hence, whatever they may think of his 
theory xif the Association of Ideas, they read him be- 
cause they wish to learn detachment, because they 
would like to be able to express philosophical ideas with 
the minimum of obscurity and fuss, and because they 
are amused and delighted with the catlike malice of the 
comments. TiailJi;,Jnj3Ctr4s-not ji_ll,Jh£-m.iid jto 

truth there is style; an d be hind. style there is wisdom. 


253 



II. Philosophy and Value 

wisdom which is born of understanding and the ripe 
experience of life garnered by a powerful mind. 

i The Qjiality of Wisdom. Now wisdom finds its most 
’ appropriate form of expression in philosophy. It is wis- 
dom when Aristotle informs us that we all tell a story 
with exaggerations in, the belief that we are giving 
pl easure: Pla to that it is the excesses of democracy that 
produce tyranny (we know it, alas, only too well in 
these later years, but who would have acclaimed this 
penetrating piece of political diagnosis at its true value 
before the war? But then the whole account of the de- 
cline of the State in Books VIII and IX of the Republic 
is a monument of political wisdom); or Russell that 
science does not change human desires and purposes, it 
only gives human beings a greater power of realizing 
their desires and furthering their purposes; or White- 
head that great ideas are like phantom oceans in the 
background of human consciousness ‘beating upon the 
shores of human life in successive waves of specializa- 
tion. A whole succession of such waves are as dreams 
slowly doing their work of sapping the base of some 
cliff of habit; but the seventh wave is a revolution — 
“And the nations echo round”.’ But apart from its 
wisdom, its fruitful treatment of particular topics, its 
incidental felicities of style and expression, a philosophy 
may have a further claim to make upon our attention, 
a claim which derives from its possession of value. We 
read the great philosophers not only for the possible 
truth of their systems, but for their ennobling, their 


254 



Plato as Artist 


strictly elevating effect upon the mind. Some derive the 
benefit of this effect from Hegel, some from Spinoza, 
some from Kant; but it is, I think, in Plato that men 
have felt it most. 

Plato as Artist. For my part, it is to Plato of all the 
philosophers that I most frequently turn, partly, I sus- 
pect, because the reading of Pla to has b^ome for me 
largely an aesthetic e xpe rience. Apart altogether from 
the question of whether his philosophy is strictly true, 
which is the question of whether the universe is really 
constituted as Plato supposes, it confers immediate en- 
richment upon the mind. To read Plato for the first 
time is to subject the mind to a process analogous to that 
whereby gloves are stretched by glc^ve stretchers. As the 
experience proceeds, the reader can positively feel his 
mind being opened, pulled wider, made more capacious, 
so that at the end he is conscious of being a mental size 
larger than he was at the beginning. But to read Plato 
often is to experience an emotion more akin to that en- 
joyed when visiting a loved piece of country or hearing a 
familiar fugue. This eflfect,_aesthetic ratiier than, intel- 
lectual, is I think, largely the result of the nobility of 
Plato’s themes, or, in the terminology I have adopted, of 
the aloofness from the physical world and of the corres- 
ponding nearness to the confines of the world of value of 
the objects of thought, the Platonic Forms, for example, 
upon which his mind plays. Plato more often than any 
other philosopher, ‘breaks through’ — he does it in the 
Timteus, in the Phado and again at the end of the 

855 



11. Philosophy and Value 

Republic — into the world of value, and, even when the 
veil remains undrawn, there is a sense of immanence in 
his work, as if it were at any moment about to be lifted. 
And Plato’s writings, more than those of any other 
philosopher writer, are brushed by the wings of the 
beauty he has glimpsed, a beauty which shines the most 
brightly in his philosophically least coherent work. Plato 
seems at times like a man to whom there shoots down 
from the place where light is flashes and gleams which 
blind and dazzle him, so that, while the power of the 
vision is still upon him, he can tell of it only in confused 
and stammering words. Yet, when his mind has cleared, 
the memory has already faded. 

Beauty of Mathematics. It ,is because of the affinity 
between the objects which they respectively study, that 
the resemblances between philosophy and mathematics 
are so numerous and so striking. Mathematics, unlike 
science but like philosophy, is susceptible of aesthetic 
valuation. Chains of reasoning are economical, solu- 
tions are elegant, the elimination of unnecessary hypo- 
theses as pleasing as the elimination of unnecessary 
ornaments, while the demonstration that all mathe- 
matics follows necessarily from a small collection of 
fundamental laws is found aesthetically delightful by 
those who can grasp it. Those who love system, order 
and coherence, who are oppressed by the disorder and 
turmoil of the world, who are outraged by the hap- 
hazard and the unreasonable, to whom things which 
might just as well have been otherwise are an affront-^ 

256 



Beauty of Mathematics 

all such are gratified by the ordered necessity of the 
world of mathematics, in which whatever is purely gen- 
eral is presented in its entirety, stripped of the adventi- 
tious trappings which in the physical world distort and 
obscure it. 

Plato, perhaps more than any other philosopher, was 
impressed by the aesthetically significant character of 
mathematics, and affirmed its objects to be among the 
most noble that the human mind could contemplate; 
so noble, indeed, that he regarded the contemplation of 
mathematical truth as a worthy occupation for the 
deity. There is in mathematics, he says, ‘something 
which is necessary and cannot be set aside . . . and, if I 
mistake not, of divine necessity; for as to the human 
necessities of which the h^any tallf in this connection, 
nothing can be more ridiculous than such an applica- 
tion of the words. Cleinas. And what are these necessities 
of knowledge, Stranger, which are divine and not 
human? Athenian. Those things without some use or 
knowledge of which a man cannot become a God to the " 
world, nor a spirit, nor yet a hero, nor able earnestly to 
think and care for man’. 

To translate into the language I have been using, the 
Ijobjects of mathematics, like those of philosophy, stand 
! on the furthest confines of the world of thought. For this 
reason they are at times tinged with the glow of the 
value that lies beyond, while those whose lives are spent 
in contemplating them are liable at any moment to 
‘break through’ into that world. 


257 



II. Philosophy and Value 

(3) Philosophy in virtue of its Generality the Integrator of 
Personality. A familiar way of putting the above con- 
clusion is to emphasize the generality of the objects of 
mathematics and philosophy. The propositions of both, 
though they may be instanced by particular things and 
events, are independent of the physical phenomena 
which illustrate them. When we say that three and two 
make five, or that it is impossible for x both to be and 
not to be a so-and-.so, the nature of the things summed 
by three and two and denoted by the symbol x is, as 1 
have tried to show, irrelevant. I have already pointed 
out that it is quite unnecessary that there should be any 
things at all in order that the statements may be true. 
We are concerned, then, in philosophy, as in mathe- 
matics, with the general la^s that underlie the behaviour 
of phenomena, but which arc in no way dependent upon 
the existence ofillustrating phenomena for their validity. 
Now the apprehension of generality requires a certain 
generalization of the apprehending faculties. Logic is 
pursued by reason, cruelty witnessed with emotion, 
secrets divined or intentions apprehended by intuition, 
duty performed from the promptings of the moral 
sense, music apprehended by the aesthetic sensibility; 
but, to the comprehension of that which is purely gen- 
eral, must go a synthesis of all the faculties; and, not 
least, of the specificall)^intellectual faculties. 

It has been the pfersistent argument of previous 
chapters that each enlargement of human faculty, 
each acquisition of human skill, each extension of 
human sensibility or widening of human apprehensiori, 

258 



Value of Integration in Personality 

is ill the nature of a jump; that, whatever may be 
the case with nature, the human mind omne facit per 
salttm\ 

Value of Integration in Personality. The jump, I have 
argued, occurs after and only after continuous practice 
and exercise at the level from which it is made. jVo w thes e 
juinps-are 4ft the^nattwe of integrations. They, bring. 
f Qgpfher info a new whole or unity faculties or aspects- 
of human nature which had previously functioned 
separately_The best definition of a ‘personality’ known 
to me is a human being in whom all the different aspects 
of man’s nature, mind and spirit, intellect and emotion, 
impulse and desire, tastes and sentiments are dovetailed 
into an harmonious whole, with thj; result that the whole 
force of the man is behind his every act, thought and 
wish. Such a man is a ‘personality’. 

At the other end of the scale there is dissociation of 
personality, where the degree of integration is so small 
that either the so-called person is only a bundle of 
scattered unitary faculties, or the faculties coalesce into 
not one but two or three grouped wholes, and we have 
cases such as that of Sally Beauchamp. Children are apt 
to be disintegrated, a child’s life tending to be a proces- 
sion of passions, impulses, desires, sadness, anger and 
gladness, which succeed one another, often with dis- 
concerting abruptness. Integ ration, then, is a signjjf 
rnaturity, of inauu:ity_t,hat is at a given leveL-And,^if my, 
general formul a is anyw here near the truth, it-presages 
*a jump to a new lev,fij. 


259 



II. Philosophy and Value 

Vices oj Departmentalism. Now the tastes and sentiments 
of the average man are — the observation is a platitude — 
highly departmentalized. He may acquire a religious 
sentiment, a family sentiment, a professional sentiment 
for his job, and a hobby sentiment, say for photography. 
Each of these sentiments recruits a complex system of 
intellectual abilities in its service, a system which re- 
mains distinct from the other systems, and develops in a 
watertight compartment from which the other interests 
of the whole arc rigorously shut out. Thus a man can go 
through life a serious and professing Christian on Sun- 
days, while cheerfully flouting every principle of the 
creed which he professes by the methods he adopts to 
earn a living during the rest of the week. There is, in 
fact, no connecting Ijnk betvyeen his religious and his 
professional department. Similarly, he will continue 
quite simply and sincerely to believe that the Com- 
mandments ought to be obeyed and that killing one's 
enemies is murder and, therefore, a crime, while cheer- 
uilly accepting the duty of killing other men whom he 
has never seen, whenever the State to which he happens 
to belong deems the mass slaughter of the citizens of 
another State desirable, and even in the name of 
patriotism taking a pr ide in the job. There is no bridge 
between his system of ethical beliefs and his patriotic 
sentiment. 

Instances could be multiplied indefinitely; they sug- 
gest irresistibly that, so far as his beliefs and sentiments 
are concerned, the ordinary man is not one but many, 
not a star but a solar system. 

260 



Synthesis of Faculties effected by Philosophy 

Such departmentalized development is natural 
enough. It is none the less disastrous, civilization at the 
moment being in danger of destruction in consequence 
of an unprecedented development in man’s mechanical 
skill and ability to exploit the forces of nature, with 
which his ethical sentiments and social wisdom have 
entirely failed to keep pace. The situation is familiar 
enough in mythology; the wicked fairy gives the inno- 
cent child attractive but dangerous toys, in the hope 
that he may compass his own destruction. In the 
world of grown-ups it is we who make the toys and then 
sell them to the wicked fairy. 

Synthesis of Facu lties effected by Philoso fihy. Now the 
advantage of an all-rotiqd as opijosed to a specialized 
education is that it cultivates all the interests, and culti- 
vates them together, resulting, if it is successful, not 
merely in systems but in a balanced system of systems, 
in which any aptitude, ability or sensibility, which has 
been cultivated in the interests of one branch of know-* 
ledge or one field of art, may be used impartially in the 
service of all. j 

Of such an education philosophy is the crown. First, 
logic “or methodology is introduced to break down 
watertight compartments, by training the mind in the 
study of principles of reasoning which are seen to be 
both common to and invariable in all branches of 
knowledge. What logic does for the principles of reason- 
ing in all the sciences, metaphysics does for their con- 
clusions. It serves, as I pointed out in the seventh chap- 

361 



11. Philosophy and Value 

ter, as an intellectual clearing house to which the con- 
clusions of the sciences are referred, and in which they 
are pooled and sifted in order that their general implica- 
tions may be gauged. Nor, as we have seen, is it only the 
results of the special sciences that philosophy takes into 
account, but data brought from other fields, from the 
study of human beings in life and literature, from the 
behaviour of human communities, from the intro- 
spective examination of one’s own experience in the 
enjoyment of art and nature, from the analysis of the 
content of moral obligation. Integrating various kinds; 
of experience, systems of knowledge and sets of con- 1 
elusions, philosophy in accordance with our formula 
prepares the mind for a jump beyond the conclusions. 
Drawing into its netball the patcrial garnered by the 
exploring reason, philosophy prepares the mind for a 
leap into the realms beyond reason. 

(3) Philosophical Intuition. The Intuitive Knowledge of 
' Persons. This is perhaps the ground for the belief, in my 
view the legitimate belief, that philosophy is an appro- { 
priatc sphere for the activity of intuition. On the subject I 
of intuition, its scope, functions andJiniitations, I have 
ventured to summarize in an earlier chapter* views ex- 
pressed elsewhere. I am here concerned to emphasize 
one point only which may be most conveniently 
illustrated by an analogy. 

Let us suppose that we were to endeavour to give a 
realty complete account of a human being. Inevitably, 

‘ Sec- Cihaptn I, pages 31, 32 

262 



Philosophical Intuition. The Intuitive Knowledge 

wc should turn first to science. What, then, have the 
scientists to tell us? We should listen, first, to the physiolo- 
gist’s account in terms of tubes and pipes, nerves and 
bones and blood vessels. These, presumably, can be 
analysed into their chemical compounds, and there is 
therefore a chemist’s account in terms of molecules and 
elements. These again can be analysed in terms of their 
atomic constituents, and there is, therefore, the physi- 
cist’s account in terms of protons and electrons. Begin- 
ning at the other end of the scale, we should have to pay 
attention to the psychologist’s account in terms of men- 
tal events, images, sensations and so forth, with special 
departmental accounts such as the behaviourist’s in 
terms of language habits and conditioned reflexes, and 
the psycho-analyst’s in terms of unconscious desire and 
promptings of the libido. From other points of view 
there is the economic man and the median man of the 
statistician; there is man from the standpoint of the 
biologist and man as he appears to the anthropologist. 
There is also the account of particular individual men tc» 
be found in the works of the great novelists. Each of these 
accounts could in theory be made accurate and com- 
plete — complete, that is to say, so far as it goes; yet each 
would be couched in different terms. To say that no one 
of these accounts conveys the whole truth about a man, 
but describes only some particular aspect of him which 
has been selected for special attention, would be to state 
a commonplace. 

But more than this is implied in the current criticism 
*of scientific method as concerned with abstractions. It 

263 



II. Philosophy and Value 

^jsjmplied that, if all the diflferent accounts, the physio- 
logical, the chemical, the physical, the psychological, 
the behaviouristic, the psycho-analytic, the economic, 
the statistical, the biological, the anthropological and 
the novelist’s, were collated, supplemented by other 
accurate and complete but partial accounts and worked 
up into a comprehensive survey, they would still fail to 
constitute the truth about a man.^nd they would fail 
to do this, not because some particular piece of infor- 
mation had been left out, or some particular point of 
view jfbrgottcn — for, it would be urged, no matter how 
complete the collection of scientific accounts might be, 
the truth would still elude them — but because they 
would remain only a set of separate accounts of different 
parts or aspects, and a man is more than the different 
parts or aspects which are ingredients of him. True 
knowledge of a man is not, in other words, the sum total 
of the complete and accurate accounts of all his different 
aspects, even if those accounts could be made exhaus- 
• tivc. Tpie-knewledge i.s, or at least.includes, knowledge 
of the man as a whole.-To know a man as a whole is to 
know him as a personality, for a personality is the whole 
which, while it integrates all the parts and so includes 
them within itself, is nevertheless something over and 
above their sum. 

Now to know a man as a personality is to know him 
in a manner of which science takes no cognizance. Also 
it is to know him in a way which is not rational, in the 
sense that no account can be given of it. The conclusion 
which has been so often suggested in these pages again* 

264 



Where Philosophy Transcends Reason 

emerges, [when reason has done her utmost, the mind 
may make a leap to the exercise of a new activity beyond 
reason^ 

(4) Where Philosophy Transcends Reaso n. It is this activity 
which in philo sop hy w e know as. intuition, -in art as 
aesthetic sensibility, in ethics as moral insight. It is an 
activity of integration, but it op erates not so much to 
achieve an integration at the old level,.a^ to effect the^ 
^dvance^ to XTi'ew one when the integration at the old 
has already beetinchieved. The activities of the human 
mind in philosophy are very numerous; philosophy in 
fact challenges more of our faculties, appeals to more 
sides of our nature than any other form of intellectual 
pursuit, because, perhaps, in the last resort it is more 
than an intellectual pursuit. 

Of these manifold activities the bulk are in the strict 
sense rational; they are the activities of reason. There is, 
for example, the assessment of the empirical facts col- 
lected by science, the reading of our own experience, the 
acquaintance with the work of other philosophers, the 
interpretation of that work in the light of the scientist’s 
facts and the report of our experience, the gradual for- 
mation of a set of provisional conclusions with regard to 
the resultant data viewed as a whole. Secondly, and 
perhaps only in the greatest philosophers, there is to be 
found an activity of insight or vision which, passing 
beyond the data collected, realizes a level of apprehen- 
sion at which a new order of the universe Ls glimpsed, an 
otder to which the mystic has occasional, the artist still 

265 



//. Philosophy and Value 

more intermittent access, but which may one day 
become the natural field for the contemplation of all 
human consciousness, as the realm of thought-objects is 
the natural field of its awareness to-day. It is because of 
their occasional ‘breaks through’ into this field that 
intuition is attributed to the great philosophers, and is 
commonly regarded as a legitimate part of the philo- 
.^ophic activity. 

'^The great thinker, expressing in allegory or myth that 
which outruns the limit of rational presentation, is one 
of the best-accredited, if not one of the most familiar 
figures on the philosophical scene, and even the most 
unintelligible passages of Plato, Plotinus or Samkara 
are recognized as the products of great minds, greatly 
engaged. , , 

My conclusion is, then, that there is a moment in the 
philosopher’s vision when logical truth is transcended 
and there is a direct intuitive vision of that which lies 
beyond, a territory which is, I would suggest, not funda- 
mentally different from that approached by the mystic 
and the artist. 

The Philosopher as a '' Character'' . It is, perhaps, partly for 
this reason that the philosopher is traditionally regarded 
as a certain sort of man. From among the various types 
of intellectuals, the historians, the scientists, the classical 
scholars, the economists, the novelists, even the mathe- 
maticians, it is pre-eminently the philosopher who is 
picked out as a man apart, a poof bemused fellow un- 
able to catch trains, to answer letters, to cross the road, 

266 



The Philosopher as a ‘CharqcteP 

or to perform the simplest offices of daily life.. He is in 
fact par excellence the type of the absent-minded man. 
He is also a man whom Plato repres'ehifs'als sheltering 
behind a wall from a storm, intending, I imagine, to 
indicate that the philosopher is ‘on the defensive’ against 
life. 

The common conception is, of course, a caricature. 
Nevertheless there would not be so much smoke without 
a little flame, and there can, I think, be no reasonable 
doubt that because of the nature of their preoccupations 
philosophers have upon the whole — and with notable 
exceptions such as Socrates or John Stuart Mill — been 
noticeably indifferent to the affairs of this world. And 
their minds are, I suggest, ‘absent’ for the reason that 
they arc normally occupie^l with the consideration of 
matters that belong not merely to the world of thought 
but lie, if I may revert to my metaphor, on its furthest 
horizon. In proportion as the objects of his attention 
are the farther removed, the greater is the philosopher’s 
effort in withdrawing his mind and concentrating it 
upon the world of every day. It is greater for example 
than is the effort of the historian or the scientist. 

If we conceive the mystic as one who, in Plato’s 
famous ‘ simile, has ventured from the cave into the 
world outside, then, while we must in the last resort 
deny to the philosopher the privilege of sharing in the 
mystic’s sunlight, we may, I would suggest, at least con- 
cede to him a place nearer to the mouth of the cave than 
that of any of his fellow workers in the world of thought. 
He works like them in the darkness, but it is a darkness 

267 



11. Philosophy and Value 

whiclv is from time to time irradiated by chance beams 
of the sunlight that shoot down from above. It is to this 
double fact, that the objects of his attention are situated 
on the far horizon of the world of thought, and that the 
philosopher himself is, in Plato’s phraseology, while still 
a denizen of the cave, yet stationed on the threshold of 
the world beyond it, that most of the peculiar character- 
istics of philosophy are, I would suggest, due. 

Mystical Element in Philosophy. Like literature or arbj« 
philosophy is, as we have seen, entitled — nay more, it 
demands — to be judged by aesthetic criteria. The writing 
of philosophy is eloquent, inspired or lucid, as its 
themes are noble, profound or ingenious. It is not with- 
out significance tha,t famou? passages from Bacon, from 
Bradley, or from Hume find their \^ay into anthologies 
of English prose. Some of these passages are strangely 
moving; they are even exciting. This excitement which 
pervades the great passages of philosophy may, I am 
suggesting, like the excitement of the mystics or of great 
art, be a reflection of some character of the world of 
value to which the philosophic vision has penetrated, 
as the books in a library opening to the west catch the 
reflected glow of the setting sun. Into philosophy writ- 
ten in the grand manner there creeps a certain sense of 
imminence. At any one moment, one feels, the writer 
may ‘break through’ into a different world, different 
and more exciting. Meanwhile, so near is that world, 
that it is impossible not to realize its agitating proxi- 
mity. And, like the great musicians, sometimes the 

268 



Mystical Element in Philosophy 

philosophers do in fact ‘break through’ . It is as if reason, 
dwelling always among objects neighbouring upon 
Value and stretched to the uttermost by the arduous 
nature of its subject matter, gives way on occasion 
under the strain, and permits the mind to pass tempor- 
arily into a realm beyond reason. Hence the mystical 
passages in the works oi the great philosophers; the 
myths in which they seek to embody meanings incapable 
of rational statement; the inspired dogmatisms which, 
striking us with a feeling of utter rightness and convey- 
ing an air of complete certitude, seem to be less the pro- 
ducts of the intellect than of a faculty akin to the 
vision of the mystic and the .seer. Hence, too, the diffi- 
culty, to which I have already referred, of drawing the 
line between metaphysics , and moonshine and dis- 
tinguishing the utterance of the profoundest cosmic 
truths from the pretentious pontificatings of my philo- 
sophic stockbrokers. 

And hence, finally, the paradox that it is not enough 
to ask of a philosophy that it should be true; often, in- 
deed, its truth would seem to be the least important 
thing about it. If it elevates and ennobles the mind, if it 
so strains and stretches the reason that it snaps like a taut 
thread to give way to a faculty more rare and pene- 
trating; if it brings the philosopher to the threshold of 
the world of \ alue, and if, while doing all this for those 
who create it, it is not without its humbler effects upon 
those who read it merely, making them tolerant in 
o^iniop, tentative in conclusion, understanding in 
judgment, impartial in decision, serene in mind and 

269 



II. Philosophy and Value 

arming them agednst the slights and piques of this 
world in proportion as it gives them the view of another; 
if it does any part of these things, all of which it has it 
in its power to do, then philosophy may be accounted 
not only an escape, one of the most certain, from the un- 
certainties and transiencies of the world of becoming, but 
a window — less clear than art or religion, but a window 
nevertheless — through which the consciousness of man 
attains a vision of the world of being. 


270 



Epilogue 

★ 

Intrusion of the Topical. Here, I suppose, this book 
should appropriately end. It is a book concerned in the 
main with generalities, with what the nineteenth cen- 
tury called the eternal verities, and I have endeavoured, 
especially in these later chapters, to exclude from it all 
matters relative to locality of time and space. It is not in 
intention a topical book, and in the carrying out of its 
intention it has remained as little topical as the stresses 
and pressures of the times would permit. And yet, in 
spite of all I could do to exclude them, the here and 
the now have always been present, perpetually pressing 
for acknowledgment and recognition. Having success- 
fully withheld acknowledgment during the last three 
chaptess, I now feel myself constrained by their claims to 
a quite peculiar relevance to my concluding theme, to 
admit them and see what they have to say for them- 
selves. They have two comments to make, and they 
promise that both shall be brief. 

As I write, the air is full of preparations for war and 
rtimours of war. The counter-revolution has taken place 


271 



Epilogue 

in Germany, and those hardly won goods of civilized 
man, free thought, free speech, a free press and freedom 
for the individual to live his life as seems best to him 
have disappeared from large areas of the Contihent. 
Many prophesy the end of our civilization owing to 
man’s inability to control the powers with which science 
has endowed him. 

The contemporary situation bears in two ways upon 
the theme with which I have been engaged, and enables 
me to offer two specifically topical contributions to this 
defence of philosophy which I have tried to draw up. 

The Failure to Connect. I have stressed the function of 
philosophy as a synthesizer. It acts, I have suggested, as 
a clearing house of knowledge, breaking down watectight 
compartments and introducing connections between 
the different departments of human thought and 
activity. Philosophy in a word helps men to connect. 
Now it might be plausibly urged that failure to connect 
is one of the major disabilities of modern man, a dis- 
ability which has become a danger to our civilization. 

As I write, human beings contemplate the increasing 
preparations for their own destruction not with fear but 
calmly, even rapturously. Crowds flock to watch 
army aeroplanes skirmishing in the skies. A thousand 
screens show bombs dropping, guns firing, torpedoes 
being launched, poison gas diffused, to audiences who 
watch them with a passionate interest. Nobody pro- 
tests; nobody is driven by the most elementary law of 
self-preservation to demand that these preparauohs 

272 



The Failure to Connect 

shoilld be stopped. Why not? Because of a failure to con- 
nect. It never occurs to these applauding crowds that 
these instruments of destruction, upon whose prepara- 
tion they are prepared to lavish immense wealth and 
whose efficiency gives them the most complacent satis- 
faction, may be, probably will be used against them- 
selves. Not, perhaps, those particular guns or planes 
which they are watching at Aldershot or at Hendon, ’ 
but guns and planes exactly like them which arc being 
jjrepared and perfected a few thousand miles away; not 
but what the very weapons which they admire arc 
sometimes sold to those who become their enemies, and 
use them for the destruction of the watchers. And to the 
directors of armament firms who make these things and 
are prepared to sell them to all comers, to the clergy and 
members of Parliament, Ihc judges and doctors and 
dons and gentlefolk who derive incomes from the busi- 
ness of their manufacture, it never seems to occur that 
their money is being used to trade in death, and that the 
potential source of their wealth is the shattered bodies, ■ 
the scorched skins, the sightless eyes, the burst lungs of 
those whom the guns have dismembered, burnt, blinded 
and asphyxiated. They do not realize, or seem not to, 
that their profits are derived from the agony of human 
beings, and that these human beings may be themselves. 

And tho.se newspaper proprietors in all countries who 
are also the directors of armament firms — do not the 
profits on a single battleship amount to more than the 
few millions required to purchase a liewspaper, lock, 
stock and barrel? — whose papers are continually foment- 

273 


T 



Epilogue 

ing men’s fears and inflaming their pride, they and their 
editors and their leader writers, while they are person- 
ally kindly men, who do not wish anyone to be hurt and 
think in terms of sales and advertisements rather than of 
policies and programmes, never appear to conceive that 
by their persistent advocacy of a militant nationalism, 
their persistent crabbing of such poor machinery of 
peace as a distracted world has managed to contrive, 
they may be conniving at their own destruction. And 
the patriotic teachers, the professors of military history,^ 
the lecturers on war strategy, remote donnish men who 
certainly do not delight in the mass slaughter of their 
fellows, never seem to relate the duty to country they so 
eloquently prescribe, or the battles whose strategy they 
so ably expound to dismembered and disembowelled 
human bodies. 

People, the fact is alas all too clear, have not been 
trained to remairk the correlations of things. They do 
not perceive connections. Now one of the main functions 
i . of philosophy is, as we have seen, the function of correla- 
tion. It breaks down watertight compartments and 
summons all knowledge and experience to judgment at 
the same bar. A little philosophy will assist men to con- 
nect and, in helping connection, will help also the 
civilization that is so dangerously menaced by its lack. 

Philosophy as an Antidote. Secondly, it is, I believe, a 
fact that many of those who are normally engaged in 
research or creative work find it difficult to-day to pur- 
sue their ordinary avocations. Nor are their difficulties 
merely economic. Over many of the sensitive-minded 

274 



Philosophy as an Antidote 

men and women of this generation hangs the menace of 
a great fear; the fear of the destruction by war of such 
civilization as we have achieved. Because of it their 
minds are unable to escape from the preoccupations of 
the political scene. Even if their preoccupation cannot 
prevent or even delay for the fraction of a second the 
catastrophe, they cannot withdraw their fascinated gaze 
from the spectacle of its slow approach. Physics and 
psycho-analysis, literature and art, the novel of the 
year, the latest experiment in poetry, So-and-so’s ‘show’ 
of paintings, such and such a performance of a sym- 
phony, these, which used to be the main staples of con- 
versation in circles which in the long run form the taste 
and set the standards of the community, are now 
neglected for discussions ofrearmament and dictatorship. 

And, inevitably, first-rate literary and artistic pro- 
duction falters or ceases altogether. How can a man 
think, let alone dream, when the hills and valleys are 
filled with the echoes of marching feet? How can he 
command the serenity to conceive or the patience tc, 
create beautiful things, when he contemplates the pros- 
pect of those whom he loves being slowly asphyxiated 
by gas and the fruits of his effort being scattered with 
the asjies of the civilizations that gave it birth? The 
creative artist demands a quiet background, if he is to 
produce his best work; he also requires an audience 
whose release from the more primitive preoccupations 
of the soldier, the savage and the gangster enables them 
to turn their attention to the products of the spirit. 
He demands in fact a civilized environment, alert, 

275 



Epilogue 

interested, reasonably secure. Under the stresses and 
fears of our time such an environment is fast vanishing 
from the Europe of to-day, and, as a result, the interest 
of civilized people in the art and literature of their 
times shows a corresponding decline. In some of the 
preceding pages I have noted this decline, contrasting 
a civilization which produced as its characteristic work 
• Chartres Cathedral with the standardized products and 
creation-saving pursuits of our own, and dwelling upon 
the revolt against reason and the modern cult of the 
primitive. These tilings are, I suggest, the appropriate 
manifestations of a threatened civilization sensing and 
fearing its end. 

But, while men can no longer create, while they find it 
hard even to appreciate with serene minds, they can 
still pursue philosophy. Evt'r since Socrates philoso- 
phized on the threshold of death, philosophy has solaced 
men in times of misfortune. In philosophy men who are 
agitated can find peace, men who are wretched resigna- 
tion, men who are afraid courage. The charge against 
philosophy that it makes us absent-minded is not wholly 
to be deplored. For to withdraw the mind from the 
things of this world is not in itself a good or an evil. It is 
an evil, if the things from which we arc withdrawn are 
mainly good, a good if they are mainly evil. 


276 



Index 


★ 


•Adler 35, 165 

Alexander, Professor 17, 19 
Alexander the Great 194 
Anaximander i5h 
Aristotle 38, 156, 176, 183, 

194. 254 

Cach 60, 63, 77, 80, 83, 85* 
90, 100, 106-7, '97> 236 
Bacon 268 
B.B.C. 106 

Beauchamp, Sally 259 
Beethoven 83-5, 89, go, 236- 
237 > 251 

Bell, Clive 95, 97 
Bennett, Arnold 16 
Bcntham 76 
Berkeley 134 
Blake 86 
Botticelli 90-1 
Bradley 141, 172, 268 
Breton, M, 144 
Browning 91 
Bunyan 86 

Butler, Bishop 38, 183, 185, 
187 


Butler, Samuel 141 
Byrd 105 

Casanova 88 
Chesterton 17, 150 
Chopin 91 

Christian Science 47-57 
Cobbctl 88, 1 0 1 

Dali, Salvador 144 
Descartes 115-6, 124, I52, 
>94 

Dickens, 11, 231 
Dolmctsch family, the 105 

Eddington 15, 17, 19, 135 
Eddy, Mrs. 30, 47-8, 52-4, 

,56 . 

Einstein 15, 131-2 
Ellis, Havelock 134 
Emerson 86 
Epstein 143 

Faulkner 1^8 
Forster 64 
Freud 35, 165 


277 



Index 

Galileo 152 Low 81 

Garbo, Greta 91 


Gaskell, Mrs. 80 
Goering 88 
Guyon, Mme. 145 

Handel 63 

Hardy, Thomaj 16, 25, 92 
Hegel 15,255 
Hemingway 79, 148 
Henley 87 
Hitler, Adolf 88 
Houghton, Claude 148-9 
Hume 134, 194, 253, 268 
Huxley, Aldous (passim) 26- 
27. 35. 72-88, 103,109-11, 
113-38, 147, 149-52, 163, 
167-8, 170, 175-8, 180, 
188-9, 191, 193-5, >97. 
199, 200 ^ 

Hylton, Jack 90 

Inge 17, 19 

Jack the Ripper 77 
, Jeans 15,17 
Jenkins 105 
Joyce 64 
Jung 35, 165 

Kant 134, 152, 193, 255 
Keats 90 
Kensit, J. A. 86 

Lawes 105 

Lawrence, D. H. 35, 142-7, 
149, 167-8, 197-200 
Leavis, F. R. & Q,. D. 63-4 
Locke 105, 134 


Mantegna 79 
McDougall 165 
Mendelssohn 89 
Meredith 90, 92 
Michelangelo 77, go-i 
Mill, James 76 
Mill, J. S. 75-6, 78, 147, 153, 
267 

Mozart 60, 77, 231, 251 

Nerval 144 
Newton 152 

Pascal 74, 79, 113, 115-6, 
120, 132, 176 
Pater 92 
Patmore 92 

Pepys, Samuel 252 note 
’’Planck 1 5, 1 07 
Plato 15, 94-6, 98, 101, 147, 

177. >84. 194. 232-4. 237. 

246, 252, 254-6, 266-7 
Plotinus 266 
Puccini 9 1 
Purcell 105 
Pythagoreans, the 162 

Quiller-Couch 232 

Richards, I. A. 154, 167, 170 
Rossetti, D. G. 91 
Ruskin 87, 91 

Russell, Bertrand 17, 248, 

254 

St. John of the Cross 145 
Sainkara 266 

78 



Index 


‘Sapper’ 91 
Scarlatti 63 
Schnabel 90, 251 
Schopenhauer 37-8 
Schubert 63, 84, 251 
Shakespeare 90, too, 235, 

237. 252 

Shaw, G. B. 16-7, 19,41,64, 
86, 147, 237 

Socrates 14, 33, 76, 151, 194, 
203, 267 

Spencer, Herbert 153 
Spinoza 14, 194, 255 
'^Stevenson, R. L. 87, gr 
Stout 165 
Stoics, the 54 
Stravinsky 143 
Sweden, Queen of 152, 194 
Swift 86 

Tattler 146 


Thales 15, 157-8 
Thomson, James (B.V.) 92 
Thompson, Francis 91-2 
Torquemada 77, 80 
Turner, W. J. 1 1 note 

Vaihinger 134 
Vermeer 97 

Wagner 106 
Wallace, Edgar 90 
Watson 165 
Wells, H. G. 17,64 
Whitehead 254 
Wilde 92 

Wood, Sir Henry 106 
Woodworth 165 
Woolf, Virginia 64 
Wordsworth 90 
Wren 91 


*79